NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Amtrak Reform Panel Off To Shaky Start

November 25, 1998

When Congress created the Amtrak Reform Council in 1997, it wanted it to examine whether the rail passenger system could become profitable as it is structured now, or whether a new plan for the system should be devised. But the council, itself, has experienced its share of setbacks.

  • Its chairwoman, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R), resigned after the council held its first meeting because of the strict limits placed on the panel by Congress, refusing to allow it to hire outside consultants.
  • So Congress must appoint a new member before elections for chair and vice chair can be held.
  • In addition to drawing up a budget, council members have to draft a letter to Congress explaining that they have not had the time or resources to write several reports mandated by the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997.
  • Federal Railroad Administrator Jolene Molitoris says that a "great deal of the conversation is what we are going to do when Amtrak fails."

Ultimately, the Reform Act requires that if the council determines any time after December 2, 1999, that Amtrak cannot be weaned off government subsidies, the council must submit plans for Amtrak's liquidation and the creation of a workable replacement.

Source: Ben White, "Amtrak Reform Panel Rides On," Washington Post, November 25, 1998.


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