Amtrak Future In Doubt

By: Michael Gorsegner
By: Michael Gorsegner

June 22, 2005

The Federal government is mulling over major cuts to Amtrak tonight, while a citizen's group is talking about extending rail service to Charlottesville.

The train could be leaving Charlottesville station forever if the United States Congress passes a bill cutting Amtrak's funding.

"It could be approved. If it were to happen in that amount, it would dramatically affect Amtrak's operations," said Timothy Hulbert from the Chamber of Commerce.

Approximately 36,000 passengers use the Charlottesville station each year. There are two different Amtrak lines that travel through the station, the Crescent and the Cardinal line. Both would be on the chopping block if the bill passes the full Congress, making traveling to Charlottesville a lot more difficult.

"Well, I obviously would not be able to travel down here anymore on the train and I think that would be a shame," said Washington, DC resident Jerry Kress.

"[I think] it's terrible if we don't have a choice to take train if we want to--if we're left with only buses, driving yourself, or planes," said Lafayette, Indiana resident Jane Ratcliff.

While the feds are trying to cut Amtrak, a citizens group is looking to launch a commuter service from Washington, DC. The group is exploring the financial implications of extending the Virginia Railway Express all the way to Charlottesville.

"There is a future for rail in Virginia and we would like to be on the cutting edge of that in this area by having inner city rail service to access Washington," said Meredith Richards.

But for many travelers, the train is about simple pleasures.

"I love the train. You are not cramped in your seat and you can stand up and walk around when you need to," said Paul Walker of Charlottesville.

The bill will move from committee all the way to the House floor for a vote. Amtrak says that if this indeed does go through, it will probably mean the end of them, leaving tracks like those in Charlottesville empty. If the cuts go through, Amtrak will only serve parts of the midwest, California, and the Northeast Corridor.

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