Amtrak in Missouri on track?

ap-amtrak-ridership-4_3_r536_c534The Kansas City Star published an article on Saturday regarding the future of Amtrak Missouri River Runner operations in the state. This article has now been reprinted in the St. Louis Business Journal and has caught the media’s attention in several other areas of the state, as well.

While the Star’s article helps paint a fairly accurate picture about the reality of funding for Missouri’s state-supported Amtrak passenger rail service, it appears it is producing a few misconceptions, as well. Here are some important facts to remember from MoDOT:

· In State Fiscal Year 2010, appropriations for the operation of the Missouri River Runner fell short of the actual amount contracted by Amtrak. The deficit has continued to grow over the last three years, but at a much slower pace each fiscal year.

· As of April 2013, MoDOT was current with payments to Amtrak. However in the month of May, our appropriation for SFY13 was exhausted. MoDOT anticipates ending the fiscal year approximately $2.3 million in arrears.

· Amtrak has been working with MoDOT  to continue operations despite the revenue shortfall.

· The General Assembly has approved $8.9 million for Missouri River Runner operations for SFY14 (subject to governor approval).

· The SFY13 appropriation was $7.9 million compared to the $8.9 million for SFY14 (subject to governor approval). This amount will address approximately $250,000 to $500,000 of current amount in arrears.

· At the same time, the cost of future service is likely to increase. This is due to a change in federal law, which mandates Amtrak charge states for equipment maintenance, instead of just operations. (This begins Oct. 1, 2013.)

· MoDOT is beginning negotiations with Amtrak regarding these cost adjustments. Early indications show a range of increase between $800,000 and $1.5 million.

Once again, Amtrak’s funding highlights the need for better funding for transportation including passenger rail and public transportation in Missouri. Please consider contacting your elected officials about the importance of this service and public transit to the viability and economic growth potential of Missouri.

See Star’s article at: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/05/12/4231935/communities-want-rail-service.html