Rebuffed by Congress in 2006, Bush Steers Amtrak Off a Different Cliff Transportation Budget Micro-Manages Amtrak System on Insufficient Funds
Washington DC – President Bush sharply reversed course on rail transportation funding today, proposing $900 million for Amtrak in his 2007 budget. However, Bush’s proposal contains so many fine print conditions that Amtrak’s managers would be severely constrained, once again threatening the success and survival of the railroad.
“After failing last year to kill it outright, the president is now trying to micro-manage Amtrak to death.” said Colin Peppard, Transportation Policy Coordinator. “No self-respecting Harvard business graduate would run a company this way, unless he was determined to kill it.”
Bush’s reversal follows a bruising loss last year after the administration zeroed out funding for Amtrak and publicly supported bankruptcy for the system. Congress rejected this proposal out of hand and instead provided $1.3 billion to Amtrak, defying a veto threat.
“While President Bush was forced to back-peddle toward greater Amtrak funding in 2007, $900 million keeps Amtrak on the same starvation diet it has been on for 35 years,” said Peppard.
According to railroad officials and non-governmental analysis, Amtrak needs a minimum of $2 billion a year to continue targeted service improvements to boost quality, convenience, and safety.
“Over the last several years, time and time again, both the public and Congress have reaffirmed their support for Amtrak,” said Peppard. “It’s time for the White House wake up and support a 21st-century system of high-efficiency rail.”
Amtrak is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. According to the 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.
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