Infrastructure & Environment

California Approves Amtrak Deal

Funding agreement ensures service won't be interrupted.
October 9, 2013

California officials have approved a deal to provide an extra $19 million in annual funding for Amtrak, ensuring the passenger rail provider's service continues uninterrupted in the Golden State.

Under a 2008 law, 19 states with Amtrak service faced a deadline to provide extra money for the rail provider or lose service starting Oct. 16. California was one of the last remaining states to reach an agreement.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Indiana and Illinois were the only states that hadn't reached an deal with Amtrak.

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Mark Dinger, a spokesman for the state's transportation department, said the California Transportation Commission approved a funding deal yesterday. Another agency whose approval was also required -- the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, a partnership of six local transit agencies -- had already approved the arrangement.

Dinger said the only thing required before the deal is official are signatures. "Obviously we're going to make that deadline," he said.

The new cost-sharing requirements are a response to the hodgepodge of deals states previously had with the passenger rail provider. For some routes, Amtrak received robust state funding, while for others, it got none at all. The new requirements are seen as a way to bring more consistency to the agreements and more financial stability to Amtrak.

Collectively, states will be paying about $85 million extra annually to preserve service, Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said, adding that Amtrak would continue to pick up 12 to 13 percent of the costs of the state-supported routes.

Last year, California provided about $90 million to Amtrak. Under the new deal, California will provide about $109 million annually.

Three Amtrak routes operating in California would have been affected by a failure to strike a deal. Those include the Pacific Surfliner, running from San Luis Obispo to San Diego; the San Joaquin, which operates in the state's Central Valley; and the Capitol Corridor, which runs from San Jose past Sacramento.

Long distance routes operating in California like California Zephyr and Sunset Limited wouldn't have been impacted, as the cost-sharing requirements only applied to routes shorter than 750 miles.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said Wednesday that an Amtrak agreement was in the "final review stage." A spokesman with the Indiana Department of Transportation couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but it appears likely that the state will need to strike a short-term deal with Amtrak before finalizing a longer-term agreement.

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