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Missouri to Bush: Don’t Ask Us to Pay for Amtrak! House Panel’s Decision to Cut Funding Shows Weaknesses of Bush’s Amtrak Plan

Posted Nov. 20, 2008 / Posted by: admin

Contact:

Contact:

Colin Peppard

202-222-0747 (office)

617-833-3875 (mobile)

Kevin Brubaker

Environmental Law and Policy Center

312-795-3714 (office)

St. Louis, Mo – Transportation Secretary Mineta will speak today to promote the President’s plan to “save Amtrak” by bankrupting it and shifting financial responsibility to the states. Yet last week, Missouri specifically voted not to fund Amtrak. Environmentalists called on the Secretary to acknowledge the reality of the situation: Missouri and other states are in no position to fund Amtrak.

“Secretary Mineta is playing the citizens of Missouri for fools with his game of three-card Monte,” said Colin Peppard of Friends of the Earth. “He wants the states to pay for Amtrak service at the same time that states like Missouri are voting not to fund Amtrak service. Either the Secretary needs to work on his act or close up shop.”

Under the Bush administration’s plan, Amtrak would be forced into bankruptcy and individual states would decide whether to step in and pick up funding for service. States that are unable to or choose not to contribute would simply not have trains stop inside their borders. President Bush’s plan has been sharply criticized by a variety of groups, including businesses and labor, environmentalists and industry, and both Republicans and Democrats.

“Hundreds of thousands of passengers use these trains every year in Missouri and ridership keeps increasing,” said Kevin Brubaker of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Missouri’s funding cuts should be a wake-up call for the Bush administration. Interstate commerce is supposed to be a federal responsibility, and as Missouri demonstrates, states can’t fill that federal void.”

Despite the strong support of Republican Governor Matt Blunt and a large group of mayors and city officials, the Missouri House Transportation Appropriations Committee voted last week to eliminate funding for Amtrak service between St. Louis and Kansas City. The move would end service between Missouri’s two largest cities along with the eight intermediate stops that trains make twice a day.

In addition to the many businesses that depend on railroads, Amtrak is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1999 (the most recent year of available data) cars and trucks emitted almost 70 percent of air pollution attributable to transportation, such as carbon monoxide and smog. Studies show that, on average, Amtrak trains put out two-thirds less global warming-causing pollution per passenger than cars and trucks, and half the global warming-causing pollution of airplanes.

“Bankrupting Amtrak in Missouri will lead to more roads, which means more cars, more air pollution, more water pollution, and more traffic. In addition to a greater financial burden on Missouri, the environment would also be forced to shoulder a heavier burden under the Bush plan for Amtrak,” remarked Peppard.

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