after 26 years and approximately $22 billion in federal
operating subsidies and capital investments, and an
overall trend of stagnant ridership, Congress debated
the viability of continuing to fund Amtrak, knowing
that without federal funds, Amtrak would cease operations.
The Senate reached a compromise by passing by unanimous
consent the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of
1997 (which became law on December 2, 1997). This Act
(P.L. 105-134) provided that Amtrak (a) would no longer
be a government corporation or hold a rail passenger
monopoly; (b) would be allowed to add new routes and
close money-losing routes; (c) would receive approximately
$2.2 billion in Taxpayer Relief Act funds; and (d) would
have to achieve operational self-sufficiency (i.e.,
no longer receive federal operating grants) five years
after the enactment of the Act.
also created the Amtrak Reform Council, an independent
bipartisan federal commission of eleven (11) members
whose statutory mandate was to: (a) make recommendations
to Amtrak to help it reach operational self-sufficiency;
(b) report annually to Congress on Amtrak’s performance
in several areas; (c) if the Council were to find that
Amtrak would be unable to achieve its goal of operational
self-sufficiency by December 2, 2002, then submit to
Congress a plan for a rationalized and restructured
national rail passenger system; and (d) if such a finding
were made by the Council, Amtrak would submit a plan
for Amtrak’s liquidation to the Congress.
History of the Amtrak Reform Council
Reform Council (Council) has eleven Council members
(six appointed by Republicans, four appointed by Democrats,
and the Secretary of Transportation). There are six
of the Council's history are summarized below.
The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act becomes public
law (P. L. 105-134)
The Council met for the first time with nine Council
members appointed, and elected Governor Christie Todd
Whitman as Chairman. The Council discussed its FY1998
budget of $50,000.
1998 AND COUNCIL BUDGET FOR FY1999
Chairman Whitman submitted a FY1999 budget request to
the Congress for $1.9 million in order to hire consultants
to study the issue of Amtrak. The Congress approved
a budget of $450,000 for FY1999 and had a restriction
on hiring consultants. Shortly afterwards, Chairman
Whitman resigned from the Council.
The Council met, and voted to appoint several Council
members to a recruitment committee to hire of a staff
director and legal counsel to help the Council prepare
its mandated reports to Congress.
Gilbert E. Carmichael, a former Federal Railroad Administrator,
as the newly elected Chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council
approved the hiring of Thomas A. Till, former Deputy
Federal Railroad Administrator, as Executive Director.
The Council approved the Executive Director's request
for the authority to hire the rest of the Amtrak Reform
Council staff, and his work plan to hold Outreach Hearings
throughout the country, inviting states to provide their
views about intercity rail passenger service.
1999 - NOVEMBER 1999
The Council held five hearings: (1) in Philadelphia,
PA, for the Northeast Corridor that runs between Washington,
D.C. and Boston, MA; (2) in Charlotte, NC, for the emerging
Southeast Corridor from Virginia to Florida; (3) in
Seattle, WA, for the Pacific Northwest Corridor from
Oregon to British Columbia; (4) in Chicago, IL, for
the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative states; and (5)
in Dallas, TX for the South/Southwestern regions of
the United States.
Budget for FY2000
In August, Council approved a FY2000 budget request
of $1.4 million to be submitted to Congress. In October,
the Congress approved a budget for FY2000 for $750,000
and lifted the restriction on hiring consultants.
The Council sent its first letter of recommendations
for improvement to Amtrak. The letter suggested that
Amtrak consider taking a number of actions, including:
1) separating the financial statements of the NEC infrastructure
from those of Amtrak's nationwide train operations;
2) providing separate financial statements for Amtrak's
Mail & Express business; 3) substantially reducing
corporate overhead; 4) instituting a program of continuing
annual cost reductions; and 5) developing contingency
plans for corrective action in the event Amtrak does
not achieve the operating and financial goals contained
in its Strategic Business Plan.
2000 - FIRST ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
The Council released its First Annual Report to Congress,
which discussed the broad range of functions Amtrak
performs, from train operator to infrastructure owner
to real estate developer. The Council expressed the
view that this extensive set of functions kept Amtrak
from focusing effectively on its core business of intercity
rail passenger service. The report also set forth the
financial criteria the Council proposed to use to determine
if Amtrak achieves the statutory goal of operational
self-sufficiency by December 2, 2002.
At a Hearing of the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee,
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the
Subcommittee instructed the Council to follow Amtrak's
interpretation of the test for operational self-sufficiency.
The Council indicated that it would follow the test
criteria of Amtrak and the Subcommittee.
2000 - NOVEMBER 2000
In 2000, the Council held three additional hearings:
(1) in Denver, CO, for the Mountain States; (2) in Sacramento,
CA, for the state of California; and (3) in Burlington,
VT for the New England States. In addition, the state
of Florida testified before the Council at a meeting
in Washington, D.C. The Council also held meetings in
Washington and New York, New York.
also released a Summary of Principal Provisions of Laws
Pertaining to Amtrak, and prepared a staff working paper
on issues relating to Amtrak's ownership of the rail
infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor between Washington,
D.C., and Boston, MA.
Budget for FY2001
In FY2001, the Council requested a budget of $1.3 million
and the Congress approved a budget of $750,000.
2001 - SECOND ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
The Council released its Second Annual Report to Congress
that: 1) described the fundamental structural flaws
of Amtrak as an institution; 2) outlined a new business
model for Amtrak to correct the flaws; 3) offered a
spectrum of five options for restructuring Amtrak, and
4) discussed possible funding options for investments
that support intercity rail passenger service.
Council hearing in Newark, NJ that focused mainly on
the Council's proposal to "appropriately separate"
the Northeast Corridor infrastructure from Amtrak's
national train operations. The states, Amtrak, commuter
train operators, and the freight railroads, all of which
share the use of the Northeast Corridor, were invited
The Council sent a second letter of recommendations
for improvement to Amtrak stating that Amtrak should
consider: 1) changing its organization to implement
a separation of infrastructure responsibility from train
operating responsibility, including separate financial
statements, and 2) revisiting the recommendations of
the Council's November 1999 letter, most of which Amtrak
had not implemented.
Council Hearing set for Los Angeles on September 20th
was cancelled due to the events of September 11, 2001.
The Council, at a business meeting in Atlanta, discussed
the issue of whether the Council should make a Finding
whether Amtrak would be operationally self-sufficient
by December 2002. After a lengthy discussion, the Council
agreed to have the staff prepare a Finding resolution.
The Council votes to approve, by a 6-5 vote, a Finding
that Amtrak will not be operationally self-sufficient
by December 2, 2002. The finding was based on the interpretation
of operational self-sufficiency requirement as defined
by Amtrak. This started a 90-day deadline for the Council
to submit an action plan to Congress for the restructuring
and rationalization of the national intercity rail passenger
system. During that same time period, Amtrak was to
prepare a plan for liquidation.
The Council met and discussed nine options for restructuring
Amtrak. The Council staff was directed to reduce the
options to three options.
An amendment, introduced by Senator Biden, to the Defense
Appropriations Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-117) prohibited
Amtrak from using federal funds to prepare a liquidation
plan. The amendment was adopted and signed into law
by the President.
Budget for FY2002
The Council requested a budget appropriation of $1.3
million (including a request for funding for first 3
months of FY2003), and submitted the budget to Congress
in March 2001. In December 2002, Congress approved a
budget for the Council of $225,000.
The Council met to discuss three restructuring options.
Mr. Wendell Cox, Council member introduced a fourth
option for the Council's consideration. The Council
discussed all of the options, and the Council adopted
Option III with several amendments, by a vote of eight
in favor, one against and two Council members abstaining.
On February 7, 2002, the Council released to Congress
its Action Plan for the Restructuring and Rationalization
of the National Intercity Rail Passenger System. The
Council, in a vote of nine Council members in favor,
one against, and one abstaining (Secretary of Transportation),
adopted the Action Plan.
for visiting our Website. The Council is looking forward
to working with Amtrak, its employees, the Administration,
Congress and all other interested parties to achieve
our common goal of improving intercity rail passenger
service in the United States.
updated April 30, 2002 Privacy