Santorum and Amtrak
Believing that Sen. Rick Santorum is a man of his word, I found it difficult to understand a March 28 letter
and the blasting of the senator by Howard Dean. Each pointed out that Santorum had promised to vote for Amtrak spending but
had recently voted against a resolution that provided funding for Amtrak.
Upon checking out the senator's Web site, the reason for the problem became evident. In a paragraph
missing from The Inquirer's version of a column the senator wrote for the March 25 Commentary Page, Santorum explains that
he voted against the resolution because it raised taxes but did not assure that the money would ultimately go to
Amtrak. Santorum vows that, during the annual appropriations process, he will support funding for Amtrak as he has done in
Gene R. Rotzell, Havertown
That sure was a fine piece Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) wrote for the Commentary Page about funding Amtrak
(March 25). He pointed out how busy the Northeast Corridor is and how important it is to properly fund Amtrak. He hopes for
"federal assistance for rebuilding efforts."
The only thing missing is any mention of the fact that he recently voted against a resolution to provide
the $1.4 billion to Amtrak.
Considering that Philadelphia is the site of one of Amtrak's busiest stations, it's no wonder that Santorum
would try to deceive his Philadelphia constituents about his vote against our city. The only question is: Why did The Inquirer
let him get away with it?
Brendan Skwire, Philadelphia
"Fund Amtrak and keep an eye on it
Sen. Rick Santorum is a Republican representing Pennsylvania
As our nation's premier passenger rail service, Amtrak plays a crucial role in our transportation infrastructure.
Keeping the rail lines open and the trains running should be one of Congress' priorities in the upcoming budget discussion.
At a time when Amtrak is setting ridership records and as congestion at our airports and on the highways continues to increase,
it would be a grave mistake to cut the federal funds that keep Amtrak operating.
President George W. Bush recently proposed cutting Amtrak funding and would provide $360 million to maintain
existing commuter services along the Northeast Corridor. Without substantial government funds or other intervening action,
Amtrak would quickly enter bankruptcy and shut down all of its services, leaving millions of riders and thousands of communities
without access to the essential and convenient transportation that Amtrak provides. In addition, it is critical to Pennsylvania's
workers, businesses, visitors, and most specifically to the more than 3,000 Amtrak employees that we do not decrease funding
Commuters rely heavily on Amtrak's services. Eight commuter railroads operate over Amtrak-owned or operated
tracks on the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak's commuter ridership has been growing steadily over the past 10 years. Today there
are 1,700 daily commuter trains over the Northeast Corridor, with an average daily ridership of 750,000.
The Northeast Corridor portion of Amtrak's business that runs through Pennsylvania has emerged as one of
the corporation's most successful routes. Amtrak operates nearly 120 daily trains through Pennsylvania, and its hub in Philadelphia
is the corporation's third busiest station in the country, serving more than 3.5 million riders each year. Other segments
of Amtrak's business model, excluding the Northeast Corridor, have caused the corporation to continue to lag fiscally.
Many of Amtrak's fiscal problems stem from underused, subsidized tracks in the Midwest. The Northeast Corridor
represents 45.2 percent of Amtrak's ridership and 45.8 percent of its revenues, but costs only 31.3 percent of total expenses.
This corridor should not lose out because other regions are not as profitable. Instead, these other regions must also take
steps to become more efficient and profitable.
Amtrak has begun to implement reform by reducing its operating costs to help fund needed capital improvements.
Core operating expenses are now less than they were in 2000. Over the last 30 months, Amtrak CEO and president David Gunn
has cut operating costs, reduced the employee head count from slightly fewer than 25,000 to just under 20,000 employees, has
increased the number of trains they operate by 20 percent and implemented internal reforms designed to control costs and improve
In mid-2003, Amtrak began the process of rebuilding its aged infrastructure and equipment, allowing its
trains to run faster and more reliably. Not only will operational costs be lowered, but also riders will get better service.
To stop Amtrak in its tracks now - in the process of revitalization - would be costly and counterproductive.
I hope that a combination of federal assistance for rebuilding efforts in the near-term and the continuation
of Amtrak's capital improvements will result in business growth and independence. We must continue to provide federal assistance
to Amtrak as it strives for self-sufficiency, while holding Amtrak accountable for its reform efforts."
Recently, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Resolution that
would have raised taxes by $1.04 billion to increase Amtrak spending by the same amount. Senator Byrd’s amendment ultimately
failed on a vote of 46-52. Many people mischaracterized my vote against the Byrd amendment as a vote against Amtrak. However,
Senator Byrd’s amendment would have added money to the budget without ensuring that any of that money would go specifically
to Amtrak. Appropriators, not the budget resolution, determine what programs receive funding during the annual appropriations
process. As I do every year I will work to support funding for Amtrak in the appropriations process, as it is a critical transportation
component in Pennsylvania.
Santorum website, Mar 25, 2005