Amtrak wants federal taxpayers to pony up 16 percent more in funding for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2015, according to a new request from the railroad.
For the fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, the railroad is asking for $1.62 billion in federal support. Amtrak received approximately $1.4 billion from in federal funds for the current fiscal year.
Ridership on Amtrak has steadily increased over the past decade, and the railroad set a new ridership record in Fiscal Year 2013 when it carried 31.6 million passengers. But, Amtrak officials want to address a backlog of infrastructure needs, particularly on the Northeast Corridor.
“Infrastructure deterioration and changes in business patterns have reached a point where something has to change,” Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement. “If America wants a modern intercity passenger rail system, the problems of policy and funding must be addressed.”
Added Boardman: “It is clear that Americans want a national system of intercity passenger rail, and will continue to use it in greater numbers if we can provide it. Our work over the past decade proves this, but to maintain and improve that system will require both an increase in the overall capital levels and a real federal commitment to deliver the needed financing.”
Last month, Boardman chided Congress, saying the nation is not making the necessary investment in its infrastructure to facilitate economic development. Now, in a March 18 letter to Vice President Joe Biden, Boardman said the “next few years will be critically important for the future of both our company and our system.”
“If Amtrak could obtain access to a multi-year Federal funding commitment, it could build and follow through on a capital program that would address our fleet and infrastructure needs,” Boardman wrote. “Amtrak has never had a true capital commitment, one that allowed us to sign multiyear contracts, knowing that the money would be there to carry out the work. As a result, we have put off major capital programs to renew aging bridges and tunnels, in some cases for decades.”
Last year, the passenger railroad said it plans to eliminate losses on food and beverage service — which totaled $72 million in Fiscal Year 2012 — over the next five years. Whether that will silence critics in Congress remains to be seen.