Fed's Plan to Shortchange Amtrak Would Shortchange Michigan Despite What Bush, Mineta Say

Fed’s Plan to Shortchange Amtrak Would Shortchange Michigan Despite What Bush, Mineta Say

Funding Burden Will Shift to States

Colin Peppard
202-222-0747 (office)
617-833-3875 (mobile)

DETROIT – Friends of the Earth criticized the Bush administration plan for “reforming” Amtrak, and called on Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta to be honest with the state of Michigan. The Bush administration’s plan for bankrupting Amtrak jeopardizes critical rail service in Michigan.

“President Bush and Secretary Mineta need to be honest with Michiganders and the American people,” said Colin Peppard of Friends of the Earth. “Their plan will bankrupt Amtrak, and then force states such as Michigan to shoulder the financial weight of supporting the system.”

Under the Bush plan, individual states would choose whether to pay for Amtrak service. States that chose not to contribute would simply not have trains stop inside their borders. If destinations in nearby states are eliminated, ridership levels in Michigan would likely decline. Amtrak carried more than 600,000 Michigan residents between 24 local railroad stations in 2004.

“Under the Bush administration’s scheme, what happens if Wisconsin, Missouri or Illinois decides to opt out? Choices will be taken away for Michiganders. This will affect everyone from the student at Michigan State trying to get home for Thanksgiving to the Detroit businessman with a meeting in Chicago to the family in Flint traveling to visit relatives in Milwaukee.”

Amtrak is one of the most energy efficient ways to travel and the technology just keeps getting better. High-speed trains like the Acela Express between Washington, D.C. and Boston have even greater efficiencies and emit a fraction of the air pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 1999 (the most recent year of available data) cars and trucks emitted almost 70 percent of air pollution attributable to transportation, such as carbon monoxide and smog. Studies show that, on average, Amtrak trains put out two-thirds less global warming pollution per passenger than cars and trucks, and half the global warming pollution of airplanes.

“Bankrupting Amtrak will lead to more roads, which mean more cars, more air pollution, more water pollution, more traffic, and more sprawl in Michigan. In addition to a greater financial burden on Michigan, the environment would also be forced to shoulder a heavier burden under the Bush administration’s plan,” remarked Peppard.

According to the U.S. EPA half of all Americans still live in counties where air pollution exceeds national health standards. Michigan ranked fifth in the nation for smog pollution between 2001 and 2003, according to the EPA. The state experienced 502 exceedances of ground level ozone, a precursor to smog, during these years.