Amtrak CEO to lawmakers: ‘Stop taking the northeast corridor for granted’

Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman told lawmakers on Monday that they should stop taking the railway’s profitable northeast corridor for granted.

Testifying at a field hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in Bridgeport, Conn., Boardman said Amtrak’s equipment in the northeast needed attention, despite the fact that is home to several of the company’s most popular routes.

“We must stop taking this vital infrastructure for granted and start investing in the future of the region and the nation,” Boardman said. “We have an infrastructure that, while safe, is vulnerable to service disruptions at virtually any time and place.”

 

 

 

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Amtrak said recently that 11.4 million of its record 31.6 million passengers in 2013 traveled on trains that operate in the northeast corridor, which includes trains that run between Washington, D.C.  Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.

Lawmakers were meeting in Connecticut on Monday to discuss issues that have plagued the New York City Metro North commuter railway that shares tracks in parts of the northeast with Amtrak.

Boardman told lawmakers that the “line is a transportation asset of national importance,” but he also warned that “it is aging and failure prone, and lacks redundant systems to keep it operating in the event of failure.

“While the incident we are here to discuss was not necessarily an infrastructure failure, the consequences of such a failure would be similar, particularly if they came at one of the many critical points, or ‘single points of failure,’ in the states of Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey,” Boardman said. 

“A single point of failure is a part of a system that, if it fails, will stop an entire system from working,” Boardman continued. “In its current state, our system  faces the threat of a major failure – with comparable impacts to this incident in terms of disruption – on a daily basis, for much of our infrastructure is aging and heavily trafficked, while capital investment has lagged.”

Metro North faced widespread delays on its trains on its New Haven line, which connects suburbs in Connecticut to nearby New York City, last month. The company attributed the delays to power issues involving the Con Edison electric company.

Boardman told lawmakers Monday that substantial Amtrak has “invested more than $167 million in the state of Connecticut to improve every aspect of our railroad” as he implored Congress to step up its contribution.

Lamwakers are expected to attempt to pass a new bill authorizing funding for Amtrak. The current measure that contains Amtrak's authorization, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), expired on Sept. 30.