Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak funding’

Moorman Calls for Passenger Rail Investments

February 16, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman told a Senate committee this week that the United States needs a new era of infrastructure investment in order to ensure a healthy future for long-distance passenger rail travel.

Wick Moorman

Wick Moorman

Speaking to the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, Moorman said, “The time is now to invest in our aging assets.

“More than ever, our nation and the traveling public rely on Amtrak for mobility, but the future of Amtrak depends on whether we can renew the cars, locomotives, bridges, tunnels, stations and other infrastructure that allows us to meet these growing.”

Noting that Amtrak posted a record ridership of more than 31 million passengers and ticket revenues of $2.2 billion in 2016, Moorman said. “I’m certain that we can get even better by relentlessly improving our safety culture, modernizing and upgrading our products and strengthening our operational efficiency and project delivery.”

Moorman called for additional support from Congress and the Trump Administration to upgrade aging assets in order to continue to provide reliable services and network operations.

Among the improvements that Moorman cited as urgently needed are construction of tunnels and bridges on the Northeast Corridor; expansion of stations in Chicago and Washington; construction of a fleet of new or rebuilt diesel locomotives; and construction of track, signaling, and other improvements to remove choke points on host railroads or restore service in key underserved markets, such as along the Gulf Coast.

Moorman said Amtrak is focusing on identifying ways to improve collaboration with the 21 states and various commuter agencies that it partners with to provide service on corridors across the country. He urged the federal government to explore different ways to support intercity passenger rail service.

This could include direct investments, public-private partnerships and innovative financing, streamlining of the environmental review process, and less bureaucratic red tape.

“Investments in these sectors can help spur the rebirth of America’s passenger rail manufacturing and supply sector,” Moorman said.

Amtrak Funded for FY 2017

October 7, 2016

Amtrak funding for fiscal year 2017 has been assured as a result of President Barack Obama signing a continuing resolution that will keep the federal government in business through Dec. 9.

Amtrak logoFY 2017 began on Oct. 1 and Amtrak will receive $235 million for the Northeast Corridor  and $1.155 billion for the national network for a total of $1.39 billion,

It is the same amount that Amtrak received in FY 2016, but the passenger railroad is being directed to spend any profits generated by the NEC only on the NEC. Observers say this will result in Amtrak’s total funding being higher.

Amtrak was funded for all of FY 2017 in the continuing resolution because of a provision in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act that requires Amtrak to implement new accounting procedures in 2017.

If Amtrak had been funded for a portion of 2017 but under 2016 funding policies, it would have had to maintain separate but parallel accounting systems in 2017, causing wasted hours of work and millions of dollars in added costs.

Other programs named in the FAST Act will have to be funded by the 2017 Transportation-Housing Urban Development appropriations bill that Congress may approve after the November elections.

White House Seeks Amtrak ‘Anomaly’ Funding

September 7, 2016

President Obama is requesting a full year of government funding for Amtrak in fiscal year 2017 as part of a list of “anomalies” proposed for a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating after the 2016 fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Amtrak logoThe Obama Administration is seeking $1.39 billion for Amtrak.

The reason for the request is due to Amtrak’s planned transition to a new accounting structure that is required by the 2015 FAST Act.

Rail passenger advocates say that if the Amtrak funding is approved it would put Amtrak on more solid financial ground but delay by a year any funding of the FAST Act’s passenger rail grant programs.

Passenger train advocates are seeking approval for funding of the new programs that have already been agreed to by House and Senate appropriations committees.

Amtrak Operating Losses Widened in FY 2015

December 2, 2015

Amtrak said on Wednesday that it had an operating loss of $306.5 million in fiscal year 2015, which is an increase over the FY 2014 $230 million loss that had been the lowest in four decades.

Lost revenue stemming from a May derailment in Philadelphia, including the payment of $50 million in damages, played a major role in the operating losses.

During FY 2015, which ended on Sept. 30, Amtrak said it was able to largely hold the line on revenue and expenses while ridership remained steady during a time of lower gasoline prices.

“Ridership has developed a strong affinity in passenger rail,” said Anthony Coscia, Amtrak’s chairman. “We think that riders will stay with trains even as gasoline prices drop.”

Ticket revenue was $2.2 billion and ridership was 30.9 million, which was a 0.1 decline from the previous year.

Total revenue fell 0.8 percent to $3.2 billion while expenses rose 1.4 percent to $4.3 billion.

NEC ridership rose 0.5 percent fiscal 2015 to 11.7 million, while ridership on long-distance routes slid 1.2 percent to 4.5 million.

Amtrak’s measure of adjusted operating losses doesn’t conform to generally accepted U.S. accounting standards, and excludes such costs as depreciation.

Eight died and NEC service was suspended for several days following the derailment in which a train was going too fast into a curve in North Philadelphia.

Amtrak also cited losses of at least $10 million related to repairs to an electrical system in the Hudson River tunnels between New Jersey and New York City. The tunnel problems disrupted travel last summer.

Amtrak expects insurance to pay for most of the estimated $164 million passenger-claim liability stemming from the Philadelphia crash.

Transportation Groups Generally Pleased with Proposed Federal Transportation Funding Bill

December 2, 2015

The five-year federal transportation bill that is before Congress affects the railroad industry by strengthening tank-car safety standards, increases funding for transit systems and creates a rail title that authorizes funding for Amtrak and intercity passenger-rail grants.

Known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, the authorizes $305 billion for transportation programs.

Railroad and public transportation trade organizations are still reviewing the legislation, which was agreed upon by a House and Senate conference committee on Tuesday, but initial reactions to the bill are positive.

“As the first long-term surface transportation bill in 10 years, the significance of this legislation cannot be overstated,” said American Public Transportation Association  President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy. “A well-funded, long-term surface transportation authorization is critical to the economic competitiveness and prosperity of our nation’s communities.”

Jim Matthews, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, called the FAST Act a step in the right direction.

“We’ve gone from the House voting on whether to completely eliminate funding to Amtrak in the spring, to the full Congress thinking seriously and thoughtfully about how to improve and expand the passenger rail network in a single calendar year; that is a big achievement for America’s 31 million passengers,” he said.

Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger hailed the bill’s action on  tank-car standards.

In a statement, the AAR also welcomed a provision that streamlines the environmental permitting process for rail infrastructure projects based on previously enacted reforms for highway and transit projects.

Hamberger said these reforms are designed to increase capacity, improve safety, hire new employees and provide more efficient service.

The bill authorizes $61.1 billion over five years for public transportation, according to APTA. Overall, transit funding would increase by more than 10 percent in one year and by almost 18 percent over the five-year bill.

The bill also would provide $199 million in one-time funding for commuter railroads to implement positive train control technology and authorizes $200 million, rising to $650 million in 2020, for three separate rail infrastructure programs.

The current federal surface transportation authorization expires on Dec. 4 and a short-term extension may be needed to give the House and Senate time to approve the final bill.

As for the tank car standards, the bill increases the thermal blanket protection for tank cars and restrictions on the use of older DOT-111 tank cars that move flammable liquids.

The bill also includes a requirement for top fittings protection on tank car retrofits, which addressed what the rail industry said was a shortcoming in the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s tank car rule enacted in May.

Other railroad elements in the bill include:
• Amtrak funding under a new Northeast Corridor account and a separate National Network program, with total funding for both programs set at $1.45 billion in 2016, rising to $1.8 billion by 2020. Competitors will be allowed to operate up to three Amtrak long-distance lines if they could do so at less cost to taxpayers.
• Accelerates the delivery of rail projects by reforming the environmental and historic preservation review processes, applying existing exemptions already used for highways to make critical rail investments go further.

  • Establishes limited authorization with guaranteed funding for grants or loans to commuter railroads and States that can leverage $2 billion in financing for positive train control implementation.
  • Preserves the U.S. Department of Transportation’s final rule requiring ECP brakes on certain trains by 2021 and 2023, while requiring an independent evaluation and real-world derailment test. DOT must evaluate its final rule within the next two years using the results of the evaluation and testing.
  • Increases the passenger rail liability cap to $295 million by adjusting the current $200 million cap for inflation. The provision will be applied to the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015, and adjusts the cap for inflation every five years.
  • Requires passenger railroads to install inward-facing cameras to monitor train crews and outward-facing cameras to monitor track conditions at the time of an accident or incident.
  • Closes a potential loophole in DOT regulations and reduces the risk of thermal tears, which is when a pool fire causes a tank car to rupture and potentially result in greater damage.
  • Improves emergency response by requiring railroads to provide accurate, real-time, and electronic train consist information to first responders on the scene of an accident.
  • Increases safety at highway-rail crossings by requiring action plans to improve engineering, education, and enforcement, evaluating the use of locomotive horns and quiet zones, and examining methods to address blocked crossings.
  • Enhances passenger rail safety by requiring speed limit action plans, redundant signal protection, alerters, and other measures to reduce the risk of over-speed derailments and worker fatalities.
  • Creates a working group and rail restoration program to explore options for resuming service discontinued after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Reforms the $35 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program to increase transparency and flexibility, expand access for limited option freight rail shippers, and provide tools to reduce taxpayer risks.

NARP broke down the authorizing funding for Amtrak and select other rail programs as follows:

  •  Northeast Corridor, $2.596 billion.
  • National network, $5.454 billion.
  • Gulf Coast Working Group, $500,000.
  • Consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvement, $1.103 billion.
  • Federal-state partnership for state of good repair, $997 million over five years.
  • Restoration and enhancement grants, $100 million.
  • Amtrak Office of Inspector General, $105 million.
  • Authorization of grants for positive train control, $199 million.

The bill boosts highway spending by 15 percent and transit spending by 18 percent while authorizing $10 billion over five years for Amtrak, $12 billion for mass transit and $1 billion for vehicle safety programs.

However, those funding numbers are subject to annual spending decisions by Congress.

Hoosier State in Trouble if Indy Pulls Funding

July 26, 2014

Amtrak’s Hoosier State appears to be doomed after the City of Indianapolis decided to cease helping to fund the quad-weekly service between Chicago and Indy.

Indianapolis was one of a handful of communities served by the train that agreed to help fund it last October after a new federal law took effect that shifted more of the burden of funding the losses of short-haul trains onto state and local governments.

“They have told me they are not interested in doing it next year, and take that as a final no,” said Bob Zier, director of multimodal program and planning for Indiana Department of Transportation.

The news comes shortly after INDOT selected a Chicago company, Corridor Capital, to take over management of the train in October.

Corridor Capital officials have been talking about trying to boost ridership on the service, which is among the least patronized of Amtrak’s short-distance trains by assigning differing equipment, providing modest food service and instituting Wi-Fi service.

In the one-year deal approved last fall, IDOT agreed to provide half of the money, about $1.4 million, to keep the Hoosier State operating. Local governments in Indianapolis, Beech Grove, West Lafayette, Lafayette, Crawfordsville and Tippecanoe County, kicked in the other half.

Ryan Vaughn, an aide to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, said that funding the Hoosier State doesn’t make financial sense for the city. The aide said the city’s participation hinged on improvements for Union Station, which is in desperate need of repairs.

Vaughn said it’s hard for the city to take on funding rail service when the needs at Union Station are so great.

He said if Indianapolis can get a federal grant to help with improvements at Union Station, the city might be able to help fund the Hoosier State.

But the deal would need to be done by Sept. 30 although INDOT can apply for one four-month extension.

That Indianapolis wants to end its funding of the Hoosier State doesn’t surprise Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton. “We had a sense Indianapolis wasn’t fully on board from day one,” he said.

Barton doesn’t think the Hoosier State can survive without Indy’s contribution.

“If you look at their contribution, do the math. It doesn’t work out,” he said. “Theirs was a diversion of INDOT funds that they were getting from INDOT anyway. It wasn’t like Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Rensselaer putting cash on the table.

“I think we’re all confident it can be self-sufficient once you get over the hump, but it will take a year-and-a-half to two years, and it will cost a little more with a private provider. I don’t think the rest of us can make up that difference.”

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski agreeds that losing the support of Indianapolis might be a death blow for the Hoosier State.

“Without them in that financial mix … there’s a very strong possibility it would mean … the end of the Hoosier State,” he said.

Still, some Indiana officials are holding out hope that the train can be saved and turned over to Corridor Capital.

“We’re all trying to put together a scenario where we can implement the new train service,” Zier said. “I’m still optimistic. I think this is going to happen. It’s just a matter of getting everything to fall into place.”

However, it seems unlikely that Lafayette, West Lafayette, Crawfordsville and Tippecanoe County will agreed to commit more money toward the Hoosier State to make up for the loss of the contribution from Indianapolis.

“We certainly cannot kick in more funds,” said Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh.

Roswarski, Barton and West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis agreed that their cities don’t have additional money to subsidize the rail line.

Dennis is not as optimistic as Zier, but still has hope that a deal with Indianapolis or other investors might save the Hoosier State because, he said, in the world of politics, things aren’t always as they seem on the surface.

Also holding out hope is Crawfordsville mayor Barton.

“I don’t think it’s final, now. I’m hopeful,” Barton said. “INDOT is still working very aggressively to pull something together, but in all honesty, if we do not secure it by Sept. 30, it’s probably gone forever.”

The end of the Hoosier State would not mean the end of rail passenger service in any of the affected communities. Amtrak’s tri-weekly Cardinal, which operates on the days that the Hoosier State does not operate, would continue to run between Chicago and New York.

SW Chief Battle May Have Consequences Here

March 3, 2014

A battle being waged over an Amtrak route in the mountains and high plains of the West could hold implications for the future of Amtrak service in Northeast Ohio.

That’s because some rail passenger service watchers believe that Amtrak is using the Southwest Chief routing issue to sidestep its congressional mandate to pay for long-distance trains — those traveling more than 750 miles — with federal funds.

Ostensibly, the fight over the Southwest Chief seems unrelated to that. It is being framed as a simple matter of a railroad not wishing to maintain a lightly-used freight route to passenger trains speeds and telling Amtrak to pony up the money if it wants to continue to operate at 79 miles per hour on the route.

This story has played out before in several places, including in Ohio when Conrail said in the 1980s that it didn’t wish to maintain the Fort Wayne Line to passenger trains speeds. At the time, the former Pennsylvania Railroad route hosted the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited and the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

The end result was that in late 1990 Amtrak rerouted the Capitol Limited to its current route via Cleveland and the Broadway Limited to a CSX route via Akron and Youngstown that had been freight only since Amtrak’s beginning in 1971.

And before that there was the fiasco of the first Lake Shore.

That train began shortly after Amtrak’s May 1, 1971, inauguration. There had been an outcry that Cleveland and Toledo had been left off the basic Amtrak route map.

Amtrak launched the Chicago-New York Lake Shore with the proviso that the states served pay its costs. But the states refused to do so – although Ohio was prepared to pay up – and the Lake Shore ended in early January 1972, having operated well less than a year.

Cleveland and Toledo regained Amtrak service in 1975 when the “experimental route” Lake Shore Limited was launched between Chicago-New York/Boston.

But the Southwest Chief route battle may be different.

Amtrak has proposed that it along with BNSF and the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas form a partnership to fund track maintenance of the former Santa Fe mainline in western Kansas, southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. Each would pay more than $40 million a year for a decade.

Legislators and local officials in towns and districts served by the Southwest Chief have introduced legislation or lobbied for state funding of the track maintenance needed to keep the Chief on its present route.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, though, has sounded the alarm about how the federal government is abrogating its legal responsibility to fund a national rail network.

The Republican governor has said in recent months that Amtrak is funded by Congress and any agreement should not leave New Mexico taxpayers with a large bill.

“According to the New Mexico [Department of Transportation], the state has never provided state funds for Amtrak service,” Martinez’s office said last month. “We’re willing to work together on this issue, but any agreement needs to take that reality into account.”

In 2013, Congress appropriated $1.5 billion to Amtrak with $71 million of that amount clawed back due to sequestration, a Nov. 13 Congressional Budget Office memo said.

“All told, the government covers almost all of Amtrak’s capital costs as well as more than 10 percent of its operating costs,” the memo said. “In 1970, when the Congress established Amtrak, it anticipated subsidizing the railroad for only a short time, until it became self-supporting. Since then, however, the federal subsidies to Amtrak have totaled about $45 billion.”

The year 2013 also saw a series of battles in statehouses over funding of Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles.

A law adopted by Congress in 2008 pressured Amtrak to reduce its dependence on federal funding by reaching agreements with states for money for short-haul trains by Oct. 1, 2013. Amtrak announced on Oct. 15 that it had successfully negotiated contracts with 19 states to increase state control and funding of 28 passenger rail routes.

In July 2013, Amtrak announced a $151 billion plan for improvements to routes in its Northeast Corridor, where it owns the tracks.

“I believe what they’re trying to do is set precedent to have the long-distance routes subject to state supplemental payments, because they cannot get enough money out of Congress to continue long-distance trains,” said Evan Stair, president of Passenger Rail Oklahoma.

Amtrak’s long-distance trains are its biggest money-losers some reports say.

The Southwest Chief had operating costs of $114.5 million in 2012 that resulted in a $62.6 million shortfall, according to a Brookings Institute analysis of Amtrak data. It’s a performance on par with most Amtrak long-distance routes.

Yet the long-distance routes are popular and continue to see increased ridership. From 1997 to 2012, patronage of the Southwest Chief increased by almost 100,000 passengers from 1997 to 2012, or 38 percent, according to the report.

Stair pondered for a minute the odds that governments along the route of the Chief will ante up the money needed to fix the tracks that is now uses.

“Is Amtrak sincere in wanting to keep the Southwest Chief or is this simply this decade’s sacrificial train to Congress?” he asked.

Amtrak has “had no discussions about discontinuing the service between Chicago and Los Angeles,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. “The options on the table are between staying where we are, which is our preference, or rerouting, which is not our preference.”

There are other options that few have talked about openly and Amtrak has not acknowledged. The Southwest Chief could be truncated to a Chicago-Kansas City train or it could be discontinued altogether. In that case, Amtrak might bring back the Desert Wind, a section of the Chicago-San Francisco Bay California Zephyr that carried through cars between Chicago and Los Angeles and operated via Las Vegas.

The Desert Wind was discontinued in a 1995 service cutback that also saw the end of the Broadway Limited although a replacement train, the Three Rivers, operated for a few years via Akron in the early 2000s between Chicago and New York before it ended when Amtrak got out of the mail and express business.

It is too soon to say what the outcome will be of the Southwest Chief battle. Amtrak’s contract to use the BNSF route in question via Albuquerque continues until Jan. 1, 2016.  After that date, BNSF has said that it will only maintain the track to a top speed of 30 miles per hour.

In theory, Amtrak could continue to use the route, but most likely it would not. Amtrak has indicated that funding from New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas needs to be approved by the end of 2014 even though it won’t be needed for another year.

That’s because Amtrak said it could take at least a year to plan a new route for the Southwest Chief.

At this point, the battle of the Southwest Chief is about track maintenance fees. Amtrak hasn’t said that it wants any of the eight states served by the Chief to help pay the train’s operating costs. At least not yet.

But could it be a precedent for asking states to pay infrastructure costs of long-distance trains?

One key difference between the Southwest Chief route battle and the situation with the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited is that the latter trains use well-traveled and maintained Norfolk Southern and CSX freight routes.

Ross Capon, the executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers has said that he suspects that neither Amtrak or BNSF wants to see the Southwest Chief move off its current route.

Putting the Chief on the Transcon route via Amarillo, Texas, would mean seeing yet another train on a route that is already one of BNSF’s busiest and one where the railroad has sunk millions of dollars to expand its capacity. True, the Southwest Chief uses the Transcon west of Albuquerque and everything seems to move there just fine.

But in the BNSF executive suite, the current Southwest Chief route is a matter of simple economics and politics. The railroad doesn’t need the ex-Santa Fe route in western Kansas except for local freight service. It would rather not add another train to the Transcon east of Belen, N.M.

BNSF officials no doubt have asked why their company should continue to pay to maintain track that it doesn’t use all that much to a level of utility that it doesn’t need. Hence, the decision was made to put the squeeze on the states for money to fix the tracks.

Amtrak has been the front man during the fight over public funding of the track maintenance of the Southwest Chief  route. BNSF has deliberately stayed in the background and said very little when asked about the situation. It would prefer that the narrative remain focused on this being an Amtrak issue.

Still, in railroad executive suites, congressional offices in Washington and state departments of transportation across the country, officials probably are watching the Southwest Chief track funding fight with some interest because it could be a precursor of things to come.

Here in Northeast Ohio, we should be watching it, too.

Amtak FY2014 Funding to Increase

January 17, 2014
Passengers board a late-running eastbound Lake Shore Limited at Cleveland on Jan. 10. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Passengers board a late-running eastbound Lake Shore Limited at Cleveland on Jan. 10. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Amtrak will score an increase in funding in the omnibus fiscal year 2014 budget bill that Congress is expected to pass. As a whole, transportation received $71.1 billion, which is a reduction of $1 billion from the FY2012 appropriation. 

Lawmakers allocated $1.39 billion to Amtrak, which is a $46 million increase over its FY 2013 appropriation.

Fueling the increase is a $1.05 billion capital budget (including $199 million for debt service, $50 million for American With Disabilities Act spending, and $20 million for Northeast Corridor-specific programs).

Amtrak’s operating budget was cut by $102 million although the railroad has an option to “flex” $40 million in capital spending to operations if needed.

The bill also includes $10 million in Department of Homeland Security funding for Amtrak and $23.5 million for the Amtrak Inspector General.

The bill imposes on Amtrak limits on overtime for employees and a prohibition on federal support for routes on which Amtrak offers a discount of 50 percent or more off normal, peak fares. An exception to the latter is made when the loss from the discount is covered by the state and the state participates in setting the fares.

Repealed in the bill is restrictive language included in the Hurricane Sandy relief act pertaining to Amtrak’s access to approximately $80 million in fiscal 2013 capital recovery funds.

Public transit will receive $10.7 billion in FY2014, a $100 million reduction over the amount enacted in 2013.

The budget bill contains nothing for high-speed rail. The Office of Sustainable Communities and its Integrated Planning and Investment Grants, formerly known as the Regional Planning and Community Challenge Grants, received zero funding.

Multi-modal transportation programs fared well in the budget. Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) will get a 20 percent increasing in funding from $500 million in 2013 to $600 million in 2014.

That $500 million translated into $474 million in grants last year with some used for planning and administration. Some $20 million of the 2014 amount is earmarked for planning. The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations and $53.5 billion in “non-discretionary ‘obligation limitation’ funding” for highways, transit and safety, and some funding for airports.

The obligation limitation is the amount that agencies are allowed to spend, partly based on expected receipts from the Highway Trust Fund.

These figures are $164 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $4.9 billion below the president’s request.

MAP-21 funding levels for highways and transit will be maintained at $41 billion and $8.6 billion, respectively.

Much of the “highway” money can be used by states for transportation projects that aren’t highways.

In recent years Congress has been unable to agree on a budget so funding levels have essentially been frozen in place. Lawmakers then completed various deals and imposed sequesters without much strategy or forethought.

“For the first time since 2011, no mission of our government will be left behind on autopilot,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski in a statement, noting that all 12 sections of the bill are complete.

 

Pennsylvania Approves Transportation Plan

November 26, 2013

Pennsylvania will increase its state gasoline tax and use the additional revenue to pay for a $2.3 billion transportation program that includes funding of rail passenger operations

The bulk of the program will go toward highway construction, but some funds will be used directed to the Port Authority of Allegheny County to stave off threatened rail and bus service cutbacks.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia will receive $340 million per year, which will prevent severe service cuts that agency projected for Philadelphia rail, light rail and bus services.

SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey identified one of SEPTA’s top capital funding needs was the rehabilitation of rail bridges on the Media/Elwyn Regional Rail line.

Funding also will be directed toward Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa.

A revamped formula will result in increase in the state gasoline tax of 9.5 cents per gallon on Jan. 1, 2014. Another 9.7 cents will be added in 2015 and at least 8 cents more is expected in 2017.

Indiana Towns Awaiting Hoosier State Contract

November 10, 2013
The northbound Hoosier State boards passengers in Crawfordsville, Ind., in August 2011 (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

The northbound Hoosier State boards passengers in Crawfordsville, Ind., in August 2011 (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Despite various figures being thrown about, Indiana communities that agreed to fund continued operation of Amtrak’s Hoosier State say they still have not seen just how much they will have to pay each month.

Although the Indiana Department of Transportationrecently posted a signed copy of its agreement with Amtrak to fund the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train, local government leaders have yet to sign their own contracts with InDOT.

InDOT and the communities served by the train agreed last month to pay $2.7 million annually to keep the Hoosier State operating for another year. That action became necessary because a federal law directed Amtrak to cease paying all expenses for trains with routes shorter than 750 miles.

The 196-mile Hoosier State route carried 36,768 passengers in fiscal year 2013 and generated $892,553 in ticket revenue, according to Amtrak.

 “Troy Woodruff put out an email this week that we should have them in the next couple weeks,” said Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said, referring to the INDOT chief of staff.

In the meantime, local governments are making final arrangements to approve the funding they agreed to provide.

Tippecanoe County expects to pay $25,000 per month, Lafayette will pay between $16,000 and $20,000 per month and West Lafayette expects to pay a total of $200,000.

Also agreeing to put up funding has been Beech Grove, Indianapolis, Crawfordsville and Rennsselaer. All but Beech Grove have stations served by the Hoosier State and the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal. Beech Grove is home to a major Amtrak locomotive and car repair shop.

The town of Dyer is the lone community that has refused to contribute money to pay for the Hoosier State.

The payments were based on the number of Hoosier State passengers who passed through each community’s train station.

The 12-month agreement between InDOT and Amtrak has an option for four additional months of service and provides an opportunity to improve the service, attract more patrons and increase revenue.