U.S. Rep. Brian Baird June 26 sent a letter to House and Senate Appropriators urging them to allocate $200 million to keep Amtrak trains running.
Without this funding, the passenger rail service will begin a shutdown early next month. Over 60 bipartisan members signed on to the letter.
"People throughout the Pacific Northwest depend on Amtrak to visit their families, for business activities, and also for recreation. At a time of increasing highway congestion, with concerns about air travel, we should not be shutting down the only passenger rail we have in the Northwest," said Rep. Baird.
Amtrak's President, David Gunn has requested a loan guarantee from the Bush administration. A four-hour meeting between Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Amtrak board members on Monday failed to produce an agreement on any financing option.
If the loan guarantee is not granted by the Administration, Amtrak must look to Congress for the funds necessary to continue operating.
"In the short term, we need to be sure the trains keep running. There's no question that we also need to review the overall Amtrak operation, but shutting that system down while we're reviewing it is just not good policy. What we need to do is make the review, make the changes that are necessary, but keep this rail service operating for our passengers today and for the future," said Rep. Baird.
More commuters than ever are using Amtrak services in the Northwest. The Washington State Department of Transportation reported that over 130,000 Washingtonians used Amtrak from January to March of 2002. This represents 14.3 percent growth over the same period in 2001.
The letter will go to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Appropriations Committee and Transportation Subcommittee. Congressman Brian Baird serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Congress.