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Supporting Passenger Rail for Our Nations Transportation Future

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 28, 2000


Today at the White House, President Clinton met with members of the Board of Directors of Amtrak, including Chairman Governor Tommy Thompson and former Governor Michael Dukakis, former Amtrak Board member Governor Thomas Carper, and Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater. The President pledged his support for full funding for passenger rail service, and called on Congress to pass his $989 million FY2001 budget request to help Amtrak achieve self-sufficiency, improve and increase the speed of rail service, laying the foundation for high-speed rail corridors. The Clinton-Gore Administration has consistently supported a strong national passenger rail system to help meet our nationís growing transportation needs in the 21st century.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PASSENGER RAIL. As our nation continues its unprecedented economic growth, highways and airports are operating at capacity. Traffic congestion is hampering regional economic growth and contributing to environmental pollution. Passenger rail, including high-speed rail, can play a key role in meeting the nationís transportation needs while providing solutions to the effects of economic growth and urban sprawl. Last fall, a bipartisan group of 26 governors highlighted the increasing need for passenger rail and urged full funding for Amtrak --the only nationwide passenger rail system - in the Presidentís FY2001 budget.

SUPPORTING FULL FUNDING FOR AMTRAK. President Clintonís 2001 budget calls for full funding for Amtrak at the authorized level of $989 million to support capital improvements and intercity passenger rail programs. This request contains an additional $418 billion above last yearís funding levels - an increase of 73 per cent - and provides funds to enhance and expand intercity rail service nationwide through partnerships between Amtrak and state governments. Specifically, the request includes:

  • $521 million to support Amtrakís capital improvements, equipment and maintenance. This funding will also contribute to advances in the Northeast corridor where high-speed rail service between Boston and New York will begin this year.

  • $468 million in capital for a new program of railway partnerships to expand and enhance intercity passenger rail service and to ensure a vibrant national passenger rail system over the long-term. This new program will make competitive matching grants available nationwide for intercity rail service through partnerships between Amtrak and state governments. Under the program, the Secretary of Transportation would award 50/50 matching grants based on joint applications by Amtrak and a state or states to improve intercity passenger rail service. The grants must be awarded to projects that demonstrate a positive net contribution to Amtrakís bottom line and positive net benefits for the taxpayer.

Amtrakís continued success. Amtrak operates a 22,000-mile intercity passenger rail system, serving more than 500 communities in 45 states. The corporation is focusing on developing public and private business partnerships, ensuring quality of service, and introducing high-speed rail to achieve its goal of becoming operationally self-sufficient by 2003. Recent successes include the following:

  • Amtrak introduced the Acela Regional service on January 31st with fully electrified service from New York to Boston, cutting travel time by 25 minutes. Acela Express service, using high-speed tilt trains, will begin in the Northeast Corridor later this year.

  • In 1999, Amtrak exceeded its financial goals by $8 million, making it the second consecutive year it has surpassed business plan expectations. Amtrak achieved the highest total revenue in the corporationís history - $1.84 billion -- an increase of 7 percent from the previous year. The financial markets recognize Amtrakís improvements: Moodyís recently raised Amtrakís credit rating, and Standard and Poorís issued a positive report on Amtrakís performance.

  • For the first time in its history, Amtrak has increased ridership for three consecutive years, up by 10 percent since 1997. Over 21.5 million passengers rode the rails on Amtrak in 1999.

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