On Monday, a plan devised by President Bush to restructure Amtrak (the national passenger-train service) was delivered to Congress. Predicated on the idea that Amtrak can compete in a competitive marketplace (despite the fact that the for-profit federally subsidized corporation has never turned a profit), the plan states that over the next six years Amtrak will become three companies, the federal government will no longer pay for operating costs, and that individual states would have to form multistate compacts to invest in and run passenger railroads. Quickly after this proposed plan was announced, swift resistance emerged from a coalition of four Republican senators who warned that maintaining an effective inter-city passenger railroad system would be near impossible under this proposed plan. Led by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), proposed legislation was discussed this Wednesday that would infuse close to $60 billion into Amtrak over the next six years. The fate of both of these plans remains to be seen, but support for Amtrak has traditionally been much stronger in the Senate than in the House of Representatives.
The first link will take visitors to a recent news story that outlines the basic points of President Bush's proposed plan to restructure Amtrak from the online edition of the Guardian. The second link leads to a piece about the legislation proposed by the coalition of four Republican senators from Bloomberg.com The third link leads to a news article from Thursday's Kansas City Star that discusses the potential problems involved with shifting the various costs associated with Amtrak to the states in a time of great fiscal austerity and state budget crises. The fourth link leads to a trenchant editorial from the Port Huron (Michigan) Times Herald that applauds Bush's reform plan for Amtrak, noting that "At least Bush knows a money pit when he sees one." The fifth link leads to an editorial piece from the Capital Times daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin that is critical of the House appropriations subcommittee decision to cut Amtrak's budget even further, concluding that "it appears that the conservative extremists in Washington are ready to repeal the accomplishments even of their own political predecessors." Finally, the last link is to the homepage of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, a group that lobbies on behalf of the expansion of rail service across the United States.