Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
CONCERNS OVER POSSIBLE SHUTDOWN OF AMTRAK
(House of Representatives - June 26, 2002)
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[Page H4028] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] CONCERNS OVER POSSIBLE SHUTDOWN OF AMTRAK The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from California (Mrs. Capps) is recognized for 5 minutes. Mrs. CAPPS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my strong concerns over the possible shutdown of Amtrak. Amtrak's new president has said that Amtrak needs a $200 million loan guarantee by June 30 or the company will have to begin a shutdown of all services. This would have a serious impact on commuters and travelers across this country, and I speak for those who would be strongly affected in California. For that reason, Congress and the administration must avert a shutdown. We cannot allow Amtrak to go bankrupt. Amtrak is a critical component of our national transportation network, providing safe, efficient and affordable transportation for millions of Americans each year. Amtrak serves over 500 cities and communities across this country, many of which rely on trains as a crucial transportation option. Since 1996, ridership on Amtrak trains has increased by 19 percent. Last year, Amtrak had 23 million riders. Including commuter services, Amtrak's total ridership exceeds 60 million passengers a year. Amtrak also plays a significant role in my State. California hosts three of the top six most heavily traveled services in the country. The Pacific Surfliner, which serves my congressional district in southern and central California, carries more than 1\1/2\ million passengers annually. The Surfliner is California's most highly developed service, and it is second only to Amtrak's northeast corridor in ridership. It connects two of the most congested regions in the country, Los Angeles and San Diego. Maintaining mobility in this busy economic corridor is essential. In addition, if funds are not provided to Amtrak, regional contract partners, like commuter rail system Metrolink, are at risk. Metrolink contracts with Amtrak to provide service throughout southern California, including Ventura County. Shutting down Metrolink service will not only impact ridership, 34,000 riders a day, but contribute to increased congestion on the region's highways. In my district, Amtrak serves Santa Barbara, Goleta, Lompoc, Guadeloupe, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. These communities rely on Amtrak as a very important, vital transportation link. At a time when more and more communities are looking to rail passenger service to increase transportation options, create economic development and reduce congestion, we must avoid an unnecessary disruption of service that America depends on. Mr. Speaker, there are three things Congress and the administration can do. First, we must support an appropriation of $200 million for Amtrak in the supplemental appropriations bill for fiscal year 2002. A number of my colleagues and I sent a letter to the conferees urging them to do so yesterday. I urge the administration to join in this effort. Second, we must substantially increase funding for Amtrak above current levels. As my colleagues know, the President has requested in his budget only half of what Amtrak says it needs to survive. If we do not address this shortfall, the railroad has publicly stated that it may be forced to eliminate the entire long distance train network. Third, we must adopt a long-term strategy to reform and to improve Amtrak. We need to address the real problem with passenger rail travel in this country: lack of funding, new missions and undercapitalization. As we begin a new era, our Nation needs a viable passenger rail system to supplement our network of highways and airports. It is time we recognize such a system requires more financial support. The Department of Transportation's Inspector General has stated that Amtrak has never received sufficient funding to invest in capital projects that would create opportunities for greater efficiency and revenue production. Yet, despite the inadequate support, Amtrak has been able to increase ridership and revenue. I commend Amtrak for doing so much with so little. In conclusion, I would like to urge the administration to take action to prevent a shutdown of Amtrak. Immediate Federal investment in our national passenger rail system is vital. If we are unable to avoid a shutdown, thousands of Amtrak workers could lose their jobs, and millions of passengers face the loss of vital train service in communities nationwide. Mr. Speaker, I am hopeful that we can make a commitment to provide stable and adequate funding for the national Amtrak passenger rail network. ____________________