Amtrak still milking government coffers

| 1/7/2002

Amtrak continues to expand its already failing passenger rail service, despite being told by a federal oversight panel in November to plan for its own liquidation. Once again, Amtrak is getting its funding from government coffers - this time it's milking Florida for $23.5 million.

On Dec. 20, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush committed $8 million in addition to $15.5 million that the Florida Department of Transportation previously earmarked for the expansion of Amtrak passenger rail service between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, along Florida East Coast Railway right-of-way. The money is being used to renovate the railroad tracks and build new stations in eight Florida communities: St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Titusville, Cocoa/Port Canaveral, Melbourne, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Stuart.

Amtrak won't stop there. To complete the expansion project, another $40 million in funding is needed for additional improvements and operations of a second train between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach to be completed in 2005 and 2006.

In November, the Amtrak Reform Council declared that Amtrak will not meet a congressional deadline of Dec. 2, 2002, for achieving financial self-sufficiency, a finding that forces Amtrak to come up with a plan for its own liquidation. Congress created the council in 1997 to evaluate Amtrak's finances and to make a definitive judgment about the railway's financial viability.
-- Rene Tankersley