My amendment to the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 encourages collaboration between Amtrak and local and regional commuter rail agencies on train schedules and routing in shared rail corridors.

Across the nation there are multiple commuter rail transit agencies that run on the same rails as Amtrak.  Many of these public transportation services have made substantial investments in the tracks and signal capacity of a rail corridor to enhance commuter rail service.

Currently, Amtrak has first right to schedule their service, which can often result in delays to commuter rail passengers and have negative impacts on the on-time performance of the commuter rails.  Amtrak must work with commuter rail in a collaborative manner, and in coordination with the host railroad, to best facilitate an efficient flow of intercity Amtrak and commuter rail passengers.

In the Puget Sound region, Sound Transit has worked closely with BNSF and made a tremendous investment in the rail corridor through the Puget Sound region – investing more than $1 billion of public funding in the freight corridor between Tacoma and Everett, Washington.  These investments represent a high price that has been paid by the region to ensure that commuter rail did not impact the freight rail operations that drive our region’s economy.  These investments benefit freight rail, Amtrak, and of course Sound Transit’s commuter rail passengers.

My amendment does not replace or affect the existing process for adding additional passenger service on freight rail networks that is based upon arms length, voluntary and fully compensatory negotiations.

This amendment simply encourages Amtrak to constructively discuss scheduling with commuter rail agencies to ensure that passenger movement is maximized and a balance is struck between Amtrak’s intercity rail service and commuter rail service in an area.

With gas prices so high, the demand for public transit—and particularly commuter rail service—is higher than ever.  With such a demand on commuter rail, it is critical that we most effectively leverage the existing rail infrastructure and capacity to meet the needs of Americans by asking both Amtrak and commuter rail systems to work together.