Thursday, February 16, 2017

Moorman to Congress: "New era" of Amtrak investment required

Written by  Stuart Chirls, senior editor, Railway Age
Wick Moorman during a Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security. Wick Moorman during a Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security. Amtrak

The head of Amtrak told lawmakers a new era of infrastructure investment is needed to ensure a healthy future for long-distance passenger rail travel in the U.S.

Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman urged a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security to invest in the carrier's infrastructure, fleet, and stations.

"The time is now to invest in our aging assets," Moorman said in prepared remarks. "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 allows us to meet these growing.

Amtrak had record ridership of more than 31 million passengers and ticket revenues of $2.2 billion in 2016, Moorman said. "I'm certain that we can get even better by relentlessly improving our safety culture, modernizing and upgrading our products and strengthening our operational efficiency and project delivery."

The former chief executive of Norfolk Southern said that Amtrak, now 45 years of age, needs additional support from Congress and the Trump Administration to upgrade aging assets in order to continue to provide reliable services and network operations.

The benefits to the traveling public and the national economy are worth significant investment, said Moorman, including in these projects:

• Construction of the Portal North Bridge and new Hudson Tunnels, both parts of the larger Gateway Program that will ensure that 450 daily Amtrak and NJ Transit trains can continue to serve New York City from the south;

• Construction of new B&P Tunnel and Susquehanna Bridge in Maryland to expand service and improve trip-time;

• Expansion and improvement of Chicago and Washington Union Stations to improve accessibility, expand capacity, spur local development and enhance safety;

• Construction of a fleet of new or rebuilt diesel locomotives to support Amtrak's national network; and

• Construction of track, signaling, and other improvements to remove chokepoints on host railroads or restore service in key underserved markets, such as along the Gulf Coast.

Amtrak, he said, is focused on identifying ways to improve collaboration with the 21 states and various commuter agencies t partners with to provide service on corridors across the country as well as on the Northeast Corridor.

Moorman urged the Federal government to explore different ways to back intercity passenger rail service such as direct investments, public-private partnerships and innovative financing, streamlining of the environmental review process, and less bureaucratic red tape.

Moorman added that such rail infrastructure investments not only help Amtrak better serve passengers, but also stimulate job growth in construction, manufacturing, and professional services. Rail cars, locomotives, steel, concrete, machinery, signals and track are sourced from across the nation.

"Investments in these sectors can help spur the rebirth of America's passenger rail manufacturing and supply sector," he said.

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