In its FY 2015 budget request to Congress, Amtrak is seeking a change in federal investment and says that continuation of current funding levels will leave the Northeast Corridor (NEC) infrastructure "vulnerable to a bigger, costlier and far more damaging failure than anything yet seen."
“Infrastructure deterioration and changes in business patterns have reached a point where something has to change,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman. “If America wants a modern intercity passenger rail system, the problems of policy and funding must be addressed.”
“Increased ridership, enhanced operating performance and stronger financial management are part of an improving Amtrak. It is time to consider a new paradigm for federal financial support,” said Tony Coscia, Amtrak board chairman. “The reality is that status quo federal funding levels put the Northeast Corridor infrastructure at increased risk of major failure with serious economic consequences for the nation.”
Boardman explained a new federal policy and funding arrangement should create a significant and reliable multi-year capital investment program to reverse the decay of NEC infrastructure and support other intercity passenger rail projects. A strong federal commitment will allow Amtrak to plan and implement major multi-year projects, he noted, such as replacing century-old NEC bridges and tunnels and make critical capacity improvements, such as the Gateway Program between New Jersey and New York.
Boardman said that NEC revenues exceed operating costs by more than $300 million a year and are today used to cover some costs of state-supported and long-distance trains. To provide additional funding for NEC improvements, he says Congress should fully fund the operating and capital needs of the long-distance routes so the NEC revenues can be reinvested in the NEC.
He said that by dedicating NEC revenue to meet NEC needs, it could be leveraged to pay for debt service on loans to address the most urgent NEC infrastructure issues. It also could be used to finance other funding solutions, such as public-private partnerships, grants of assistance and state and passenger rail agreements.
For FY 2015, Amtrak is requesting $1.62 billion in federal capital and operating support, an increase of approximately 16 percent from FY 2014 federal appropriations.