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President’s Budget Eliminates Transportation Choice for Americans Administration proposes to bankrupt Amtrak, eliminate high-speed rail, and halt critical railroad rehab projects

Posted Nov. 4, 2008 / Posted by: admin

Contact: Colin Peppard

 Transportation Policy Coordinator

 202-222-0747 (office)

 617-833-3875 (mobile)

Washington DC – In a bold move that will no doubt anger many in Congress on both sides of the aisle, the President proposed the virtual elimination of significant transportation choice for most Americans.  The administration has proposed cutting more than 61 percent from the Federal Railroad Administration, achieved by the elimination of all federal Amtrak funding. 


“This nation has long been served by a robust system of railroads that serves several thousand people every day,” said Colin Peppard, Transportation Coordinator for Friends of the Earth.  “By proposing to bankrupt Amtrak, the president is denying transportation choice to Americans.”


Amtrak services over 25 million passengers a year throughout 500 stations in 46 states.  In many instances, Amtrak is the most convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation between distant cities without significant air service.  This includes much of the South, the Midwest, and the West.


Peppard explained how government spending reflects the administration’s values.  “This demonstrates that the President does not value safe, efficient, environmentally friendly transportation choices.  Instead, he wants to pour billions of dollars into a highway system that encourages pollution and waste and an air travel system that is billions of dollars in the red.  This is at the cost of a significant piece of the American transportation system, which employed almost 20,000 Americans at the beginning of 2004.”


Amtrak’s success over the past several years has been well documented, with ridership at record highs and operating losses that continue to decline, according to the Department of Transportation Inspector General.  Despite Amtrak’s encouraging improvements, the president revealed his intentions in the Department of Transportation FY06 budget by stating that “[w]ith no subsidies, Amtrak would quickly enter bankruptcy…”


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 pollution per passenger than cars and trucks, and half the global warming pollution of airplanes.


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