Washington, (D.C.) — With three remaining seats on the Amtrak Board still awaiting nominations and two of the five nominees displaying no clear affiliation with, or advocacy for, portions of Amtrak’s service running outside the Northeast, the Rail Passengers Association today repeated its call for a clearer picture of these nominees’ vision for Amtrak’s national network.
“While we applaud the White House for finally making the Amtrak Board a priority, the slate announced on late Friday only goes part of the way toward fulfilling Congress’ clear and unmistakable direction in Section 22202 of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Rail Passengers’ President & CEO Jim Mathews.
“We pointed out Friday afternoon that the entire slate apart from Mayor Koos from Normal, Ill., lives in the Mid-Atlantic region,” Mathews continued. “In our view, the White House missed an opportunity to appoint an Amtrak Board that would speak for communities served beyond those in that region. Amtrak’s trains run throughout the U.S. Southeast, the Southwest, our northern border with Canada, and the Pacific Coast. Where are the nominees who will serve as the voice of the passengers from these regions, which include some of the fastest growing communities in the nation?”
The U.S. Congress made a concerted effort to do more than just give Amtrak money in its historic infrastructure spending package. Congress took steps to redefine Amtrak’s mission, to enshrine as a central purpose its role in providing essential transportation to smaller communities, and to make “America’s Railroad” more responsive to Americans throughout the country.
Thanks in part to the work of the Rail Passengers Association and its professional staff, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) contained several important reforms to Amtrak’s Board of Directors. In an effort to make the railroad’s top policy-setting body more representative of the riding public, the BIL requires that Amtrak Board Members include two members from the Northeast Corridor, two from Long-Distance Routes, and two from State-supported corridors.
It also injects more transparency into Board proceedings by requiring three annual public engagement sessions: with the disability community, Amtrak employees, and the general riding public.
“The Rail Passengers Association is looking forward working with members of Congress and their staffs during the confirmation process to ensure that this Administration’s Board appointments square with congressional intent, which reflects the reality that nearly 80% of all Americans today support a stronger national passenger rail network for the entire country,” continued Mathews. “We also expect to work closely with these nominees to get a better understanding of their commitment to Amtrak’s new mission and purpose as defined by Congress.”