Murray Helps Pass Amtrak Reauthorization Bill that Includes Help for Washington State Amtrak Lines

Oct 30 2007

Bill Includes two Murray-sponsored amendments that seek to improve Amtrak service in Washington state

(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) helped pass legislation that significantly expands funding for Amtrak, the national passenger railroad. Senator Murray joined a bi-partisan majority to pass the six-year, $19.2 billion reauthorization bill by a vote of 70-22. The Bush administration has previously proposed cuts in federal support for Amtrak.

Senator Murray included two critically important amendments for Amtrak in Washington state in the legislation. Both amendments would help improve passenger rail service, encourage ridership, and eventually reduce traffic congestion on Washington state highways.

The amendments address:

  • Delays on the Coast Starlight line which runs between Los Angles and Seattle, and
  • A strategic plan for cross-border rail service during the 2010 Olympic Games

Coast Starlight Delays

The Coast Starlight line that runs between Los Angeles, CA and Seattle, WA has experienced significant problems with on-time performance. In fact, in 2006 the Coast Starlight line had an on-time rate of only 4 percent. This is a drastically different situation from Amtrak trains in the Northeastern Corridor, which have significantly higher rate of on-time arrival. Senator Murray's amendment requires the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation to report back on service delays on the Coast Starlight and Amtrak Cascades routes. (The Seattle PI reported on the Coast Starlight's poor performance) 

"As far too many of our state's residents know from personal experience, the Coast Starlight Amtrak line is chronically late arriving to Seattle," said Senator Murray. "It's so bad that late is now the norm, and that's unacceptable. My amendment requires the Department of Transportation to examine current delays, determine causes, and make recommendations for improving the Coast Starlight line's poor performance."

Rail Preparations for the 2010 Olympics  

Senator Murray also is working to ensure that Americans will be able to access the 2010 Olympics using rail service from Washington state. The amendment she included on the bill that passed today calls on Amtrak, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and relevant railroads companies, to develop a strategic safety and logistics plan for rail travel during the Olympics. Senator Murray wants a strategy for expanding service so that more fans can access the Games in 2010. The strategic plan and other recommendations will be submitted to Congress in a report due within one year.

"If we don't start planning now, Americans heading across the border to the Olympics in 2010 via rail will be faced with major security delays, unpredictable service, and outdated rail lines," said Senator Murray. "I'm calling for a strategic plan to expand service and improve security so that more fans can travel across the international border during the Games."