Amtrak’s Rough Ride Renewed

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Passengers walk beneath an Amtrak sign at Union Station in Washington.

Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman had hoped for an easier ride in 2013 after Florida Republican John Mica had to relinquish the chairmanship of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Mica, who was term-limited out of the post, took great pleasure in poking fun at Amtrak’s losses from its food service and its federal subsidy.

With Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster in the new T&I post, Boardman had hoped for smoother track through that committee, which is due to reauthorize Amtrak this year. He was in for a rude awakening yesterday, when Shuster named California Republican Jeff Denham as the Railroad Subcommittee’s chairman.

Denham last month lit into California’s high-speed rail project at the final hearing Mica held to grill Boardman about Amtrak. Denham said he supported the project as a state senator before the cost ballooned and the state’s credit rating was downgraded.

“Let’s put it back on the ballot so that we can end the project once and for all,” Denham said then.

Denham earned his stripes chairing another T&I subcommittee that last year probed excessive spending at conferences by the General Services Administration.

Boardman today said he doesn’t know Denham too well, only having “experienced him” in the Dec. 6 hearing.

“He’s got a steep learning curve,” Boardman said in an interview following a press conference to announce a plan to buy trains for California’s rail project. “He had a history in California of what in-state issues are, but his view now has to be larger. It’s not just California parochially.”


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