Senate Democrats demand more money for Amtrak repair backlog
Washington — Senate Democrats on Thursday demanded that Republicans provide more money for Amtrak so the railroad can tackle a $21 billion maintenance and repair backlog, including replacing tunnels more than a century old.
Democrats at a news conference cited last week’s deadly crash in Philadelphia and said the backlog is compromising safety and service.
Investigators have said the crash could have been prevented if expensive safety technology called positive train control had been in operation. Amtrak says the system will be ready by year’s end.
Democrats want to Congress to give Amtrak the entire $2 billion in subsidies the railroad requested for the budget year that starts Oct. 1. They say GOP lawmakers have starved the railroad financially for years.
A Republican-controlled House panel approved a spending bill the day after the crash that provide Amtrak’s with $1.1 billion, a cut of $251 million from this year.
The budget that President Barack Obama submitted to Congress in February proposed allotting Amtrak $2.5 billion next year, with most of the increase dedicated to capital investment in tracks, tunnels and bridge.
One tunnel in Maryland that needs replacement is over 140 years old. Tunnels under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey are over 100 years old.
Republicans have criticized the nation’s long-distance passenger railroad as wasteful and inefficient.
Amtrak more heavily serves urban areas in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast that are represented predominantly served by Democrats.
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