Kummant: Amtrak Could Always Use a Little More Cash

BOSTON – Amtrak could had easily asked for $1.6 billion to invest on capital improvements, more than double the funding it asked for in 2009, President Alex Kummant told Reuters.

“To give you a sense of the capital flow, we today get between $500 million and $600 million a year on capital,” Kummant said. “We asked for the coming year for $800 million. We could easily spend twice of that if you look at the state of the repair backlog. And if you look at the appropriation, the kind of sliding scale here, the capital grants range in 2009 from $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion.

“The states themselves in the state grant actually end up having access to about 40 percent of that. So in round terms that moves our number from $600 million to a $1 billion,” Kummant added. “That’s an important and significant increase. But it still doesn’t leave that much headroom for additional equipment. So if you are still talking about a multi-billion type of acquisition program to replace all the equipment in the Northeast Corridor I think we have to look at more than that.”

The House this week approved a bill that authorizes $14.4 billion for Amtrak capital and operating grants, state intercity passenger grants, and high-speed rail over the next five years. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 includes $4.2 billion (an average of $840 million per year) to Amtrak for capital grants and $3.0 billion (an average of $606 million per year) for operating grants.

– Railfanning.org News Wire

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