Any infrastructure package that clears Congress this year should include direct federal funding for Amtrak and other rail organizations, Amtrak’s president and CEO Wick Moorman told senators.
Public-private partnerships and other financing tools should also be “part of the mix” for an infrastructure proposal being developed by the Trump administration, but direct federal funding would help maximize those investments, Moorman said at a Feb. 15 Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee subpanel hearing on multimodal transportation.
President Donald Trump has said he plans to introduce a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan this year that would be funded primarily by public-private partnerships. Yet Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross have said they expect the infrastructure plan to also include some direct federal spending. That has raised concerns among budget hawks like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who oppose increasing the national deficit.
Lawmakers should seize on the new opportunity to boost investments by focusing on improving aging rail infrastructure, Moorman said. He highlighted several key projects that need long-term investment, including construction of the Portal North Bridge and new Hudson Tunnels—both part of the Gateway Program intended to increase the number of trains running between New York and New Jersey. Federal money also is needed to restore rail service along the Gulf Coast, Moorman said.
Tracks and signals along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak’s most profitable route, are in need of repair too, he said. And the capacity of the National Network, which is primarily owned by freight companies and shared with Amtrak trains, should be expanded to alleviate capacity constraints that delay both freight and passenger trains, Moorman said.
“More than ever, our nation and the traveling public rely on Amtrak for mobility, but the future of Amtrak depends on whether we can renew the cars, locomotives, bridges, tunnels, stations and other infrastructure that allow us to meet these growing demands,” Moorman said in his written testimony.
Unlike transit, passenger rail does not receive funding from the Highway Trust Fund. Moorman told reporters after the hearing that he wasn’t pushing for passenger railroads to be included in any kind of trust fund, but would like to see more partnerships among states, Amtrak, commuter agencies and the federal government. Federal grants would be preferable to the creation of any “quasi-trust fund,” he said.
Passenger rail operators also need federal assistance with the implementation of anti-crash safety technology known as positive train control (PTC), according to BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Michael Rose. Congress has ordered both freight and passenger-commuter railroads to install PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2018. Commuter railroads, which are subject to federal and state appropriations, have especially lagged behind privately owned freight rail organizations in adopting the systems.
“There [are] a lot of passenger-commuter rails that still have not had the … they just don’t have the money to implement positive train control,” Rose said. “As a freight railroad, it might sound out of line, but I actually urge Congress to fund passenger-commuter rail funding for positive train control.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Beasley in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)