February 5, 2002
WASHINGTON (Feb. 5)–Sen.Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) today asked the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Transportation Subcommittee to hold hearings on Amtrak’s request for a $1.2-billion budget in Fiscal Year 2003.
“I hope this hearing can be scheduled as soon as possible,” Durbin wrote to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “As you know, the President included $521 million for Amtrak in his FY 03 budget. This is the same level of funding as last year and represents less than half of Amtrak’s request. It is my hope that Congress will take the necessary steps to resolve this funding crisis.”
Durbin made his urgent appeal following a news conference last Friday at which Amtrak President George Warrington announced the company is suffering from a growing cash hemorrhage that will force it to shut down virtually all of its trains outside the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor after October 1.
Warrington also announced Amtrak would lay off 300 managers and 700 scheduled employees, reduceits capital expenditures by 23 percent, reduce station hours at 73 locations and perform only the minimum fleet maintenance necessary to comply with safety regulations.
“Chairman Murray, I fully understand that Congress must address a number of authorization issues before adjournment,” Durbin wrote. “But while we wait for action in other committees, we need to go the extra mile to ensure that intercity passenger rail service is preserved and no jobs are lost in this critical transportation sector. That’s why we need to begin examining Amtrak’s FY 03 federal funding request immediately.”
Durbin reminded Murray that Illinois is a critical part of the Amtrak national system, with an average of 48 trains per day serving 30 ofthe state’s communities over more than 1,000 miles of track.
“Ridership in the state exceeded 2.9 million during 2000,” Durbin told the Senator, noting that Amtrak employes more than 2,000 Illinois residents and last year purchased $45.6 million worth of goods and services from Illinois businesses.
If Murray agrees to hold hearings on Amtrak’sbudget request it will become the third congressional committee to look into the matter. A hearing already has been scheduled by the Railroad Subcommittee ofthe House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for February 14. In addition, the Transportation Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee plans to hold hearings of its own February 27.