Amtrak to petition governors for support
In an apparent change in strategy, Amtrak did not release a list of expected cuts Friday to its long-distance train routes.
Rather, in the coming weeks Amtrak officials will send letters to the governors of states that have long-distance Amtrak service, a spokesman said.
Colorado is one of the states with Amtrak service and the California Zephyr, which makes daily stops in Glenwood Springs, is a route still in danger of being cut, Amtrak spokesman Howard Riefs said.
Around 30,000 people board or depart the Zephyr each year in Glenwood Springs, with many of them coming from Denver and the Front Range.
Amtrak’s letter will explain to governors the importance of receiving $1.2 billion in federal funding – about twice what the agency has been getting – to keep the rail system running at current levels.
In his budget, President Bush proposed $521 million for the government-run agency.
Amtrak officials said the route cuts could be necessary to make up for years of infrastructure neglect and because long-distance routes generally lose money.
The 18 route cuts identified by Amtrak on Feb. 1 were supposed to be officially announced Friday. Those routes could still eventually be cut, but most likely will still be running at the beginning of fiscal year 2003, which starts Oct. 1, Riefs said.
By law, Amtrak is required to give 180 days notice before discontinuing any line.
“We need to go ahead and notify the states and the various governors and our business partners,” Riefs said.
Those business partners are each state’s department of transportation. In Colorado, that would be the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“We don’t know the fate of any of the routes,” Riefs said. “In the event they don’t provide the funding, Amtrak will be forced to make some tough decisions. There’s no list, so to say, but if Congress doesn’t come through, as far as trains that are not moneymakers, some routes could be cut.”
There are two Amtrak funding bills in the Senate now, Riefs said, one sponsored by Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-N.C., and one by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
“It’ll probably transpire sometime in the summer,” Riefs said of the agency’s funding legislation.
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