WASHINGTON – Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee , Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman asked Congress to address the railroad’s “most urgent unfunded need”: the replacement, expansion and modernization of an aging fleet of locomotives and passenger rail cars.
The funding will buy new equipment and support the development of a domestic rail manufacturing base to create American jobs, he said.
Boardman explained that it is “vitally important that we begin the process of seeding the industry and replacing obsolescent equipment now” as “the average age of our passenger cars is at an all-time high…and it will continue to rise in the time it will take to order and build new equipment.”
On March 22, Amtrak sent to Congress a $446 million supplemental funding request to be added to Amtrak’s previously submitted FY 2011 budget of $2.1 billion, consistent with the authorized funding approved in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.
Boardman said that if this additional funding is received, it will support a procurement process initiated last year to buy new equipment to address Amtrak’s two most critical needs— retiring passenger rail cars built from 1948-1956 and replacing the hard-run electric locomotives that operate on the Northeast Corridor.
He noted that between 2002 and 2008 Amtrak ridership increased by 32 percent to record-levels and the railroad handled the new passengers without buying a single piece of new equipment. “That’s a remarkable achievement, but one that cannot be sustained indefinitely,” he said, especially as the demand for more passenger rail service continues to grow.
The current procurement is part of a comprehensive Fleet Strategy Plan released by Amtrak in February 2010 which describes the urgent need for new equipment and lays out a detailed plan to manage the process of replacing the entire fleet by 2040.