Message to Congress

Message to Our Members of Congress

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

ISSUE #1: AMTRAK’S FUTURE PLANS

Amtrak’s president, Richard Anderson, has stated that he will concentrate on the Northeast Corridor (Boston- Washington) and state-supported corridors of less than 750 miles which will be served with bare-bones diesel multiple-unit (DMU) equipment minus amenities. For communities no longer served by an Amtrak interstate train, the proposal is for the government to subsidize intercity bus service. Amtrak would become Ambus.

For many towns in the American West, Amtrak is the only means of travel unless one wants to drive the entire distance or drive hundreds of miles to the nearest airport. This would have a disastrous effect on the lifeblood of towns along the western interstate trains’ routes. Rather, Amtrak should not only continue these trains and at a greater frequency than one per day, but it should look at new routes to serve the western states. Only Congress can determine the future of Amtrak, mandate a business plan and appropriate funds to enforce it

ISSUE #2: FAST ACT II RE-AUTHORIZATION

The double-deck Superliner equipment that serves the western interstate trains is getting old. The oldest cars are over 35 years old, and Amtrak employees refer to them as “maintenance shops on wheels.” As these cars fail, Amtrak will use that as an excuse to discontinue the western interstate trains one by one.

Congress needs to appropriate money to purchase new equipment for these trains, and preferably enough to establish new routes in the West. Congress also needs to appropriate money to re-manufacture the existing cars to keep them running due to the four- to five-year lag time to get new equipment on line.

ISSUE #3: DAILY SUNSET LIMITED SERVICE

The Northeast Corridor is growing more slowly than the rest of the nation, and many states along the corridor are losing population. By contrast, the I-10 corridor has grown explosively over the past fifty years. Yet the Northeast Corridor has a 150-mph electric rail speedway with trains running better than hourly, but the I-10 corridor has a train that only runs three times per week. What’s wrong with this picture?

The Sunset Limited needs to run at least daily, and eventually with multiple daily frequencies. There is enough equipment available in Amtrak’s inventory to make daily operation an immediate possibility, yet the railroad has dithered over the past decade to make this a reality. Should the Superliner equipment fail, this will be the first train to be eliminated from the national network. Amtrak needs to change its operating philosophy, and Congress is the only institution with the clout to make it happen.