MoDOT Seeks More Amtrak Funds

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Transportation released a "new decision item" Wednesday, predicting the state will owe Amtrak $2.9 million by the end of the current fiscal year.

The state uses tax dollars to subsidize the train service. According to State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, the state already funds Amtrak with about $8 million each fiscal year. That pays for fewer than 200,000 passengers a year.

"That's about $40 a ticket. So, for every single ticket sold on Amtrak, the state pays $40. That doesn't include any federal funds or other sources of funding, as well," State Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City said.

Despite the expense, lawmakers agree that Amtrak needs funding to maintain riders. "If you don't fund at least two trains a day, you'll have a substantial decrease in ridership. People can't get to and from a location in the same day," Schaefer said.

MoDOT said it has alerted legislators to the budget shortfall in the past. The $2.9 million is a result of the state not contributing enough money to pay for the service throughout the past couple of years.

According to MoDOT Railroad Administrator Eric Curtit, the current state-sponsored Amtrak route delivers two daily round trips from Jefferson City to St. Louis and Kansas City. The number of passengers Amtrak serves rose nearly 16 percent from fiscal year 2011. MoDOT also cites that Amtrak services received 89% customer satisfaction in fiscal year 2011.

"$2.9 million represents the difference in what was allocated for the service and what the service actually costs," Curtit said. "Its the difference in the past, along with the difference in what it costs today."

Despite this, Schaefer does not anticipate raising Amtrak spending in the future. However, State Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-Webster Groves, would support more Amtrak funding.

"[Amtrak] gives people a chance to travel off the highway," Kirkton said. She does not think this is a partisan issue. The lawmakers KOMU 8 spoke with do not believe Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has withheld any of the budget. The state has released all funds appropriated for Amtrak.

Lawmakers do not expect the service to stop as a result of the budget shortfall. MoDOT maintains that Amtrak is already running on the minimum amount of funding and cannot run on spending cuts.