May 5, 2022 - TRA Opinion -
Late last week President Biden announced his nomination of five individuals for the board of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) all of whom will be subject to Senate approval. With the current administration in power Democrats choose five candidate and Republicans are allowed three. The Republican Party is yet to announced their slate for the Amtrak board.
Only one of the five Biden nominees is from outside the Northeast Corridor and he is Normal, Illinois Mayor Chris Koos.
Passenger Rail Association President/Ceo Jim Mathews summed up the announcement. "Amtrak's trains run throughout the U.S. Southeast, the Southwest, our northern border with Canada and the Pacific Coast", according to Mathews. "Where are the nominees who will serve as the voice of the passengers from these regions, which includes some of the fastest growing communities in the nation?"
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which Congress passed last fall, calls for reform to Amtrak's board. It includes two members from the Northeast Corridor, two from long distance routes (like the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited that serve the Lone Star state) and two from state-supported services (like the Heartland Flyer from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City that is a partner operation of the Oklahoma and Texas Department of Transportation).
Mathews said his organization is working with members of Congress during the confirmation process to ensure that board appointments from the Biden Administration reflect the intent of the law and the reality that "nearly 80 percent of all Americans today support a strong national passenger-rail network for the entire country", according to the CEO.
The Federal Railroad Administration will be awarding grants for the next five years that total $33 billion dollars and a good chunk will be for Amtrak expansion projects. With zero representation on the Amtrak board from Texas or other southern or western states, where do you think those grants will go?
As we mentioned, Republicans have not yet nominated three individuals to serve on the Amtrak board.
Today would be a good time to dash off a note to a Texas Republican Congressman and your two U.S. Senators, both Republicans, reminding them that Texas and the rest of "flyover country" is not represented and urge them to add qualified candidates to the list.
Here's the link to find out who represents you: