Dem senator opposes provision in House Amtrak bill

Dem senator opposes provision in House Amtrak bill
© Greg Nash

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is vowing to stop a proposal in the $7.8 billion Amtrak funding bill that was approved by the House last week that he says would result in high-speed trains skipping stations in his home state. 

"High-speed rail without stops in Connecticut is a nonstarter,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “I will strongly and steadfastly oppose any proposal for high-speed rail that uses Connecticut tracks but bypasses Connecticut stations.” 

The provision at issue in the House Amtrak bill requires the company to study the possibility of establishing express service between Washington, D.C., and Boston using high-speed technology. 

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The broader measure, which provides Amtrak funding until 2019, was approved by a wide margin in the House last week over the objection of conservative groups in Washington who argued that rail service in the U.S. should not be subsidized by the federal government. 

Blumenthal is a staunch supporter of Amtrak and other commuter railways, but he promised to push the Senate to put the brakes on the D.C.-Boston express provision that is included in the House rail bill. 

“The New Haven Line is the busiest rail line in America for a reason — Connecticut residents demand and depend on robust rail service,” he said. “I will work vigorously to stop in its tracks any effort to ignore our state's critical needs, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the delegation who share my concerns about this issue."

The House Amtrak bill would authorize about $982 million per year for the company's national network and another $470 million annually for its popular Northeast U.S. routes, which include several stations in Connecticut.

The bill sets another $300 million per year for construction on Amtrak routes in the rest of country and about $24 million per year for the company's inspector general. 

Amtrak has historically received about $1 billion per year from the government for operations and construction projects since its inception in 1971, but the funding has become controversial among conservatives. 

The rail service's last authorization bill in 2008 provided about $1.3 billion to the company for a combination of operations, construction and debt service.