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State DOTs: Be very afraid of the future with Amtrak state supported service

August 16th, 2012

If President Obama wins re-election in November, state departments of transportation can most likely expect huge increases in the cost of Amtrak operating their state-sponsored service simply because of the coming changes in the way Amtrak and states due business due to the changes in federal law. Amtrak is going to be passing along more and more and more of its costs of doing business because it expects fewer federal dollars overall for the company, and the difference has to be made up somewhere.

If Governor Romney is elected president in November, state departments of transportation can expect outright panic in the halls of Amtrak headquarters in Washington, since Mr. Romney has already declared Amtrak is a non-essential government program he would choose not to fund.

This could leave the states on their own, even with growing potential for passenger service.

Thankfully, there are a host of private operators out there willing and able to take on the task of running state and regional services.

Contrary to what you hear from Amtrak and it’s wholly owned lapdog organizations, a surprising number of freight railroad hosts would look kindly upon any operator other than Amtrak running trains on their tracks provided reasonable agreements were reached which would benefit all parties.

For the issue of equipment, if Amtrak is greatly downsized or broken up, well, that equipment is a starting point, just as Amtrak began over 40 years ago with the heritage fleet of equipment it inherited from the predecessor railroads to today’s freight giants.

Plus, there are other providers of equipment with available fleets of good equipment which can be configured for state services while new equipment is being ordered for a long term scenario.

In short, there are options, and there are people with viable plans. Prudent state DOT managers should be looking at immediate alternatives to the current Amtrak scenario to ensure their states have uninterrupted service.

Amtrak never was, and, never will be the ultimate answer for passenger service in the United States. – J. Bruce Richardson


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