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.
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.