Intercity Passenger Rail:

Assessing the Benefits of Increased Federal Funding for Amtrak and High-Speed Passenger Rail Systems

GAO-01-480T: Published: Mar 21, 2001. Publicly Released: Mar 21, 2001.

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Phyllis F. Scheinberg
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This testimony discusses the benefits of increased federal funding for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) and high-speed passenger rail systems. Amtrak made minimal progress in 2000 toward achieving operational self-sufficiency. Although Amtrak is required by law to achieve operational self-sufficiency by the end of 2002, the outlook is not bright. Amtrak reduced its "budget gap" by only $5 million and must achieve an additional $281 million in savings by the end of next year. In addition to the uncertainty over Amtrak's future, this is an opportunity to examine the future of intercity passenger rail. Federal costs are expected to be large. For example, the ultimate cost to build high-speed rail corridors is unknown, but it will certainly be in the many tens of billions of dollars. Much of the funding could be expected to come from the federal government. In deciding the future of intercity passenger rail, it is important for Congress to have realistic assessments of the benefits to the public from this mode of transportation. These assessments would help establish the role, if any, of intercity passenger rail service in the nation's transportation system and guide Congress in its funding decisions.

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