Amtrak President Joe Boardman made his pitch for more spending on rail in the Northeast at a federal hearing in Bridgeport.
Boardman spoke at the hearing U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., held in Bridgeport City Hall to get to the bottom of the Sept. 25 power loss that crippled Metro-North’s New Haven Line. Amtrak uses Metro-North’s rails from New Rochelle to New Haven, Conn., and estimates that it lost $2 million because of the failure of a 138,000-volt Consolidated Edison cable in Mount Vernon.
There was a little tension at the hearing. Blumenthal pressed Con Ed to reimburse the railroads and others for their losses, while the utility’s president, Craig Ivey, rejected the idea.
But one thing everyone agreed was that the government needs to spend more money increasing rail service.
There is an irony here. The power failure along the New Haven Line was not caused by a lack of investment in rail, it was actually a mishap that came during an improvement project. Con Ed had disconnected a twin power line to connect it to a new $50 million substation that Metro-North built. While doing that, crews apparently caused damage to the backup line. With both out, the power failed.
Nonetheless, money for rail is a big issue.
The Northeast Corridor, from Washington to Boston, is Amtrak’s busiest by far, accounting for more than a third of its ridership, and more than half of its $2 billion in ticket revenue.
I’ll talk more about ridership in another post. Meanwhile, here’s Amtrak’s press release on Boardman’s comments at the hearing in Bridgeport. His testimony is expected to be posted on Amtrak’s site here.
AMTRAK: STOP TAKING NEC FOR GRANTED
Investment needed to address aging and decaying infrastructure
WASHINGTON – The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is a national transportation asset and is aging, failure prone and lacks redundant systems to keep it operating in the event of failure, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman told a Congressional committee today.
“We must stop taking this vital infrastructure for granted and start investing in the future of the region and the nation,” he said. “We have an infrastructure that, while safe, is vulnerable to service disruptions at virtually any time and place.”
Boardman explained that the process of aging and decaying infrastructure is gradually eroding the serviceability of the railroad as underfunding takes its toll. Lost riders and revenues are the clearest manifestation of the problem when a failure occurs.
He emphasized that funding on the required scale will have to come from a strong coalition that involves the federal government, states, other rail users of the NEC, local government and the private sector where it makes sense.
Amtrak is America’s Railroad®, the nation’s intercity passenger rail service and its high-speed rail operator. Amtrak and its state and commuter partners move people, the economy and the nation forward. Formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak is governed by a nine member board of directors appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Anthony R. Coscia is board chairman and Jeffrey R. Moreland is vice chairman. In FY 2013, a record 31.6 million passengers traveled on Amtrak on more than 300 daily trains – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – that connect 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Enjoy the journey® at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more