Instead of hurting Amtrak, help it

KPC News Service

The passenger trains that stop in Waterloo four times each day could disappear under the president’s new proposal for the 2018 federal budget.

The president’s plan calls for eliminating all of Amtrak’s 15 long-distance routes, allowing Amtrak to focus on its more profitable short- distance trains, mostly on the East Coast.

That would end Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited train between Chicago and New York and its Capitol Limited line from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

Both trains stop in Waterloo each morning on their way west, and every night while heading back east.

About 20,000 people per year board Amtrak trains in Waterloo. Since last summer, they’ve had the pleasure of waiting for the trains in the historic Waterloo Depot.

A federal grant of $1.8 million paid for sprucing up the 1883 depot building, moving it closer to the tracks and outfitting it as a train station. Waterloo Town Manager Tena Woenker points out that the town got the job done at a $100,000 savings.

The president’s budget also proposes to end the type of grants that paid for Waterloo’s depot, known as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, or TIGER.

Spending $1.7 million on a depot that gets used for less than two years seems like a waste for taxpayers — but not for Waterloo. If Amtrak service ceased, the town still would be left with a handsome, functional building that could be used as a community center. They can’t take that away.

It may be too soon to panic, however. Last week, Amtrak’s Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner pointed out that previous presidents also have called for big cuts in Amtrak funding. The 46-year rail passenger service has survived all past attempts to diminish or eliminate it.

We hope our representatives in Congress will work to make the trains that run through Indiana more successful and appealing to travelers, instead of voting to shut them down.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].