Amtrak: still running

| Thursday, June 27, 2002

The original deadline for shutting down Amtrak is here but trains are still running. The railroad's administration officials and lawmakers, who are trying to solve the railroad's money problems, say the trains will run at least through the beginning of the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta vows the government will continue efforts to avoid a shutdown of services. So how much money does the railroad need to keep going? Amtrak President David Gunn has said the passenger railroad needs $200 million to keep operating through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

One of many options broached by Mineta, Gunn said, was to mortgage Chicago's Union Station, which Amtrak owns.

Lawmakers of both parties, meanwhile, are trying to include $205 million for Amtrak in a supplemental spending bill now being negotiated by the Senate, House and Bush administration. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, pointed out that the railroad is a critical alternative to highways and airways.

Amtrak Vice Chairman Michael Dukakis said an easier solution would be for the Federal Railroad Administration to endorse Amtrak's request for a loan guarantee. Gunn said Mineta proposed a loan guarantee to help Amtrak get about $100 million - half the amount it says it needs.

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