Four States Continue Talks to Keep Amtrak Service
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
Four states missed a Tuesday deadline to reach agreements with Amtrak to fund shorter routes, but the railroad still hopes to keep trains on those routes running beyond the middle of October.
“We continue to work with the other states and are hopeful for a positive outcome,” said Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods.
California, Indiana, Illinois and New York still do not have agreements. Fifteen states already have inked deals with the company, which is subsidized by federal money.
The Oct. 1 deadline was the same as the cutoff date for Congress to reach a budget deal to avert a government shutdown, but the Amtrak deadline was unrelated to that fight. Instead, it is the result of a 2008 law that pushes states to help pay for 28 routes shorter than 750 miles. Those routes, which cross 19 states, carry over half of Amtrak’s passengers.
Amtrak says service will stop on the routes on Oct. 16 if new agreements are not finalized. The company has already notified employees that service may end.
Negotiations stretched into the eleventh hour for several states:
- Indiana officials are trying to get local communities along an Indianapolis-to-Chicago route to help pay the state’s $3 million yearly tab. Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the state submitted a plan to Amtrak that would temporarily keep service on the Hoosier State line. The state would then look for a longer solution that included local contributions and possible service changes.
- Vermont negotiated cost-sharing agreements with Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York for routes into New York City. All four states, along with neighboring New Hampshire, were still in talks with Amtrak on Monday. New York Transportation Department spokesman Beau Duffy said Monday afternoon that New York and Amtrak were “very close” to an agreement on the state’s four routes.
- Illinois already pays the costs of three of its four short-haul passenger lines but is still trying to reach a deal on arrangements for the fourth. Illinois says its Amtrak routes served 85 percent more passengers in 2011 than in 2006.
North Carolina came to terms with Amtrak last week on routes traveling between Charlotte and Raleigh and between Charlotte and New York City.
Amtrak estimates the shorter-distance routes added $2 billion a year to local economies, counting employee salaries and goods and services the railroad buys.