Mayors Appeal for Amtrak

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In a move to express their deep concern over reductions in taxpayer subsidies for Amtrak, several mayors in Mississippi, including John Robert Smith of Meridian, signed a letter criticizing the proposed federal budget as "misguided and detrimental to the health of our communities."

Amtrak was created by the Rail Passenger Service Act signed into law by President Nixon in October 1970. A private corporation, Amtrak has authority to manage our national railways and operate trains under contract with railroad companies.

In 2004, Amtrak carried roughly 25 million passengers, but it operated at a $600 million loss.

"The current plan is to shift the responsibility of funding for Amtrak, asking states to pick up as much as 50 percent of the burden, but as Mayor Smith points out, even this proposal has its difficulties.

Advocates say Amtrak provides another transportation option to many people unable to travel by other means.

Union Station in Meridian services two Amtrak trains per day, one going north as far as New York and the other headed south to New Orleans.

Without some type of financial solution, that form of travel is threatened.

Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta referred to President Bush's budget proposal as a wakeup call to Amtrak.