Dem senator lobbies for $555.8M fund to improve Amtrak line

By:  Rebecca Shabad
The Hill

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Tuesday he is asking appropriators to allot nearly $556 million for a fund to improve Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the train line on which last week’s fatal crash took place.

In the wake of the derailment that left eight dead, Murphy is pushing a request he made earlier to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

Murphy wants them to honor President Obama’s request for a $555.8 million capital fund for the Northeast Corridor.

The Connecticut senator is asking his colleagues to provide flexibility despite a 2011 law that he said “imposes draconian annual spending caps on the subcommittee.”

“The fund — which would be the first of its kind dedicated to the Northeast Corridor — would be used to address dangerous conditions along the tracks due to decades of deferred capital projects,” Murphy said.

The Northeast Corridor Commission, he noted, has said the corridor itself needs at least $52 billion over the next 20 years to keep bridges, rails and tunnels in good condition.

The House Appropriations Committee, hours after the crash last week, approved a transportation and housing bill that would cut Amtrak’s funding in the next fiscal year.

While the cause of the crash has not yet been fully determined, Democrats immediately seized on the accident to justify getting rid of budget ceilings next year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is beginning to mark up bills funding parts of the government in fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1.

The White House has vowed to veto any spending bills that match the sequester’s level. Lawmakers must send a new bill to the president, however, if they want to lift the spending ceilings.