(Host) State transportation officials say Vermont’s two passenger trains will continue to run this summer even though the state and Amtrak have not resolved a number of key financial issues.
The Legislature has appropriated $2 million to subsidize the operations of the “Ethan Allen Express” and the “Vermonter” but Amtrak wants to raise the subsidy to at least $2.5 million. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles says negotiations with Amtrak will probably drag on all summer. The state begins a new fiscal year next week, but Searles doesn’t expect rail service to be affected while the negotiations are going on:
(Searles) “They intend to continue to run the trains, we will continue to pay for that service under the terms of the old contract. So we’re not concerned that service will abruptly end here in Vermont.”
(Host) A larger concern for Searles is the long term viability of the trains as Congress looks to enact changes to the Amtrak system:
(Searles) “That’s all part of the debate, the philosophical debate about whether the federal government should pick up the tab for passenger rail service or more of it should be pushed off to the states. And the Bush administration has taken the position that the states should bear more of the burden. We obviously feel differently.”
(Host) Any decision by the Dean administration to increase the state subsidy for Amtrak would have to be approved by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee.