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.

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