Amtrak Chief Says Railroad’s Subsidy Dwarfed by Highway Bailout

The head of Amtrak defended taxpayer support for rail fares, saying highways have received more in emergency assistance in the past four years than the U.S. passenger railroad has gotten in its 41-year history.

“In the past four years, the federal government has appropriated $53.3 billion from the general fund of the Treasury to bail out the highway trust fund,” Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said in testimony prepared for a congressional hearing today. “That’s almost 30 percent more than the total federal expenditure on Amtrak since 1971.”

Boardman appeared today at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing where Chairman John Mica, a Florida Republican, said the average taxpayer subsidy for the past five years works out to $50.97 per ticket sold.

Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, says it covers 85 percent of its operating costs from ticket revenue. It receives its capital and debt budget from the U.S. government.

Amtrak, based in Washington, has defended its taxpayer support “since our creation,” said Steve Kulm, a spokesman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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