Fiscal 2012 House Appropriations Letter

August 2, 2011

The Honorable Tom Latham
2217 Rayburn House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Latham:

Our Association strongly supports the highest possible FY 2012 appropriations for Amtrak and for the High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program. 

Among the key reasons for continuing to develop our intercity passenger train network:

  • Strong ridership growth, as Amtrak in June posted its 20th consecutive month in which ridership was higher than the same month a year earlier.
  • The prospect that gasoline prices will remain high and go higher.  High energy costs, of course, can depress the economy, which makes it all the more important to encourage travel by energy-efficient trains.
  • Record heat has caused more people to recognize the reality of climate change. Trains are environmentally friendly both in terms of direct energy consumption per passenger-mile (compared to cars and airplanes) and by encouraging pedestrian- and transit-friendly development around stations, reducing peoples’ dependence on automobiles for many routine trips.
  • Most jobs generated by train investment are domestic.

Amtrak has requested $2.2 billion in Fiscal 2012.  The High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program must make up for lost time given the absence of any new funding for FY 2011 and the take-back of part of the $2.5 billion originally appropriated for FY 2010.  We support $4 billion for this program, and we support the program’s twin purposes.  The majority of projects which have won grants will generate tangible improvements in service quality and availability in the short term.  The California high-speed train project has the potential to be a game-changer; we continue to support that project and believe that the decision to begin construction in the San Joaquin Valley makes sense.

We are concerned that Amtrak’s fleet is too limited to accommodate today’s growing demand, much less any dramatic growth that might result from new dislocations in the energy.  Amtrak’s ridership growth continues in spite of weakness in the economy. 

Renewal of the equipment fleet will help retain these first-time riders by providing frequent, reliable service coupled with amenities and comfort.  To the larger economy, replacement of older equipment means jobs and profits in the railroad supply sector.  Continued adequate investment in the PRIIA 305 NGEC sends a strong signal to both riders and industry that the Nation is committed to a carefully structured program of long-term investment in new generation of world-class passenger trains.

The Section 305 is funded through Federal Railroad Administration and is separate from the regular Amtrak and High Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail appropriations.

Thank you for considering our views.

Sincerely,

Ross B. Capon
President & CEO
National Association of Railroad Passengers