Republicans push for 'visionary' Amtrak leader

Republicans push for 'visionary' Amtrak leader

Top ranking Republicans on the House Transportation Committee are pushing for Amtrak to hire a "visionary leader" to lead the nationwide passenger rail system. 

Amtrak's current CEO, Joe Boardman, is planning to retire in September after nearly a decade at the helm of the national railway system.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and rail subcommittee chief Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said this week that Amtrak should hire a new chief that has "the necessary vision and management skills to successfully implement new reforms and improve Amtrak’s performance.

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"We believe this is a pivotal moment for Amtrak, and the future of passenger rail generally in America," they wrote in a letter to Amtrak Board of Directors Chairman Tony Corscia, citing a recently passed transportation funding that included money for Amtrak.  

"Our motivating factor for getting this rail reauthorization done was giving Amtrak the tools to tackle major looming challenges it faces," the lawmakers wrote. "We believe Amtrak's next CEO must be a visionary leader with the skill set necessary to implement the FAST Act reforms quickly, and move Amtrak forward."   

Boardman has served as Amtrak's president and CEO of the company's board of directors since November 2008. 

He announced his retirement plans in a letter to the agency's employees in December. 

"At the meeting of the Amtrak Board of Directors this week, I informed them of my intention to retire from Amtrak in September 2016," he wrote then. 

"At that time, I will have served nearly eight years as the president and CEO of our company," Boardman continued in the letter. "When I look back at this time, I see so many accomplishments and so many changes we made to make America’s Railroad a stronger, safer and a more important part of our nation’s transportation system." 

Shuster and Denham said "Amtrak's inclusion in the multi-year surface transportation act shows that there is bipartisan support for continued intercity passengers rail service to our communities." 

The lawmakers praised Amtrak for improvements that have been made under Boardman, but they said the company's next leader would have to do a lot more to make the national passenger rail service more sustainable for the future.  

"Amtrak is at a critical juncture, and we believe the next CEO must have experience in implementing change within large organizations with a significant footprint and assets," they wrote. 

"We believe that type of CEO will allow Amtrak to implement the FAST Act reforms, continue to improve Amtrak performance, and be better positions to meet the tough challenges that lay ahead for the railroad," the lawmakers concluded.