Amtrak marks 42 years of service with funding plea

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Amtrak began operating on May 1, 1971 after it was created by Congress to replace a network of private rail companies that were struggling to provide national passenger rail service.

Amtrak has traditionally received about $1 billion per year in subsidies from Congress. The agency uses some of the money for operations, but most of it goes toward capital improvements.

Republicans in Congress have sought to eliminate the Amtrak subsidy in recent years, arguing that private companies could operate the company's rail lines more efficiently.

Amtrak has pushed back on the GOP efforts by pointing out that it has achieved record ridership in recent years and arguing that as a result, less of its operations have required subsidies.

Boardman called Wednesday for Congress to provide a recurring source of funding for Amtrak instead of year-to-year appropriations.

"It is time for dedicated, multi-year federal operating and capital funding for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail," the Amtrak CEO said. "Our customers and our nation have waited for 42 years too long already."

"If Congress provides predictable and needed levels of federal funding support, Amtrak and our state partners can better deliver a future of improved reliability; enhanced capacity; more service; increased speeds and reduced trip times on the Northeast Corridor and other passenger rail corridors around the country, including the development of new ones," Boardman said.

The law that now provides funding for Amtrak, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), is scheduled to expire in September. Lawmakers in both chambers have identified passing a new PRIIA bill as a priority for 2013.