Amtrak requests less federal operating support
Amtrak is requesting $450 million in federal operating support for fiscal year 2013, a lower amount than the $466 million appropriated by Congress for FY 2012.
The ability to seek reduced federal operating funding results from successful and ongoing efforts by Amtrak to improve its financial performance, including increased efficiency, cost controls, and debt reduction as well as better service, record ridership and anticipated increases in revenue. “Amtrak’s request for less federal operating support is a strong statement on just how much this railroad has improved its management and financial health. The fact is, Amtrak now covers 85 percent of its operating costs with non-federal dollars and we will further improve on that number without cutting service,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman.
Amtrak submitted this request to Congress today as part of its FY 2013 Grant and Legislative Request for federal funding to support the operating and capital investment needs of America’s Railroad®. It also contains a detailed discussion of legislative issues, including Amtrak’s top five priorities for a new surface transportation bill.
The full FY 2013 request totals $2.167 billion and supports aggressive efforts by Amtrak to build the equipment, infrastructure and organization needed to ensure continued strong growth. The company is investing in projects critical for enhancing the passenger experience, essential for supporting its national network and vital for its future. The funding request consists of four major components: $450 million for operations to support the national network of corridor, state-supported and long-distance trains; $1.435 billon for capital and infrastructure projects nationally; $212 million for debt service; and $60 million for Northeast Corridor (NEC) development projects, the Gateway Program to add track, station and tunnel capacity into the heart of Manhattan, and the high-capacity 220 mph next generation high-speed rail system from Washington, D.C. to Boston.
The $1.435 billion request for FY 2013 for capital and infrastructure projects is a significant increase over the $657 million appropriated by Congress for FY 2012. Boardman stated that the increase is necessary to move beyond mere maintenance of existing equipment and infrastructure and to invest in improvements that support faster, more frequent and more reliable service in the Northeast, the Midwest and elsewhere. For example, Amtrak is ready to move forward on NEC projects that address the major backlog of deferred maintenance and enhance capacity at key chokepoints, provide greater connectivity and increase operating speeds.
The requested capital funding also will fund safety and security projects as well as customer focused programs such as improving station accessibility under requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and continuing the development of a next-generation reservation system. Funds are also required to replace an aging fleet of locomotives and passenger rail cars used for long-distance trains, state-supported routes and other corridor services. In addition, the request for $212 million for debt service in FY 2013 is lower than the $271 million appropriated by Congress for FY 2012 and reflects the fact that Amtrak has worked hard to control its finances and reduced its debt for eight consecutive years. Boardman further explained federal funding is critical for continuing and advancing many successful initiatives begun during the last three years which have taken root within the
company and are now bearing fruit, strengthening the railroad’s bottom line and laying the groundwork that will take intercity passenger rail to the next level.
He also emphasized it is imperative that Congress integrate Amtrak and other federal rail programs into a comprehensive and truly multi-modal surface transportation bill. As the nation’s intercity passenger rail provider and only high-speed rail operator, Amtrak believes the rail section should include these top five priorities: provide dedicated, multi-year funding for intercity and high-speed passenger rail; establish a national investment strategy; create a clear and leading role for Amtrak; ensure coordinated corridor planning and project execution; and address liability and insurance issues.
Amtrak plays an important role in the nation’s transportation network, offering people a safe, efficient, and reliable alternative in an economy marked by high gas prices and pervasive highway congestion. The demand for Amtrak service across the country – eight ridership records in the last nine years – is indicative of a sustainable trend.
“Congress has given Amtrak a critical national mission to provide intercity passenger rail service, and with an appropriate level of federal funding support, we can secure a stronger future for our country and reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” said Boardman.
Along with its FY 2013 Grant and Legislative Request, Amtrak submitted to Congress its FY 2012 – FY 2016 Five Year Financial Plan that reflects the company’s commitment to continuing strategic capital investments that will yield returns from better service reliability, improved customer service and expanded service options.