Letter To House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Istook

To House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Istook

July 14, 2004

The Honorable Ernest Istook Jr., Chairman
Subcommittee on Transportation and Treasury, and Independent Agencies
Attention: Ms. Leigha Shaw
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Our Association strongly supports Amtrak’s FY 2005 request of $1.789 billion.

Amtrak under President and CEO David L. Gunn:

  * saw total expenses decline in both FY02 and FY03;
  * has done no new borrowing in two years;
  * finished FY02 and FY03 with money in the bank;
  * projects a decline in the operating grant requirement (exclusive of debt service) from $577 million this year to $570 million a year during FY05-FY09;
  * is making major progress in addressing deferred maintenance on both rolling stock and infrastructure, with more track work underway now than at any time in the last 20 years.
  * has rising ridership and passenger revenues. In the first nine months of Fiscal 2004 (October-June), ridership is 6% higher than in the year-earlier months, and passenger revenue is up 5%; and
  * is generally regarded as having dramatically improved the quality and transparency of its reports of financial and other performance measures.

The Bush Administration’s proposed FY 2005 grant of $900 million, or indeed anything below the $1.217 billion appropriated for FY 2004, would reverse Amtrak’s progress and likely force a shutdown by February. Moreover, any FY 2005 grant that is substantially below the requested amount would slow efforts to restore Amtrak to a “state-of-good-repair.” In particular, failure to complete bridge work in a timely fashion would increase the danger that a bridge failure would force a complete shutdown of Boston-New York service.

The tight gasoline market, with no substantial relief in sight, and the aging of U.S. population both argue for maintenance and improvement of our national rail passenger network, since high gasoline prices increase the public’s interest in alternative transportation, and older Americans are more likely to seek or need such alternatives, especially for longer trips. (The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to rise from 35 million today to more than 62 million by 2025.)

Thank you for considering our views. Please let me know if we can supply any further information.

Sincerely,

Ross B. Capon
Executive Director

cc: Members of the subcommittee