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Amtrak – Is This Really The Time To Cut Their Budget?

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Apparently we all agree to spending public money for highways, but not for trains. Given the important and vital daily commuter traffic on the nation’s railways, this really doesn’t make any sense. We have to pay for infrastructure, even if it means we have to pay taxes. Republicans don’t agree, as a recent article [click here] discussed:

Amtrak was born in 1970 when President Richard Nixon signed the Rail Passenger Act in order to assure the continuation of inter-city rail travel, particularly in the East where many daily commuters still relied on train travel. Conservatives considered this a “politically expedient” way to slowly allow rail passenger service to die out, while liberals hoped that eventually Amtrak would become self-sufficient. As it has turned out, rail travel remains popular enough to justify Amtrak’s existence – yet it continues to require public funding.

Therein lies the problem for the right-leaning elements who have dominated the legislature for over a decade and stand against public funding of anything but the defense industry. It should come as little surprise that Amtrak has continued to get short-shrift when it comes to funding. Although the railroad has done its best to implement speed control technology throughout its system, a significant part of the Northeast Corridor has no such technology – including the site of May’s tragic and unnecessary accident.

In the wake of this tragedy, the Republican-controlled House Appropriation Committee has voted to cut Amtrak funding by another 20%. In March, Republican Senator Roy Blount of Missouri introduced legislation that would extend the deadline for implementing PTC technology by another five years. At the time, he issued a press release stating that “unmanageable deadlines could result in higher costs and a disruption of service.”

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