I very much appreciate your Amtrak editorial ("Bush plays chicken with Amtrak," The Daily Astorian, March 1). My company, Rail Travel Center, is a frequent operator of tours on the Amtrak services in the Pacific Northwest. The Bush-Mineta plan to "reform" Amtrak by bankrupting it would obviously end those tours.
But even Mineta's cynical assumption that state supported services like the Eugene-Portland-Seattle Cascades would survive is patently false and he knows it. Oregon has struggled annually to find the dollars needed to retain the Eugene-Portland service. And Mineta's plan requires that Amtrak "Lock the doors" through any state that will not pay. Would this mean that even Seattle-Portland trains would terminate at Vancouver, Wash.?
But worse yet, the expenses of the Cascades as isolated services would explode. There would be no connecting passengers from the Empire Builder or the Coast Starlight. The entire cost of the reservations system, track maintenance and stations would fall on Oregon and Washington. While Mineta alludes to vague promises of 50/50 federal match moneys for capital improvements, not one cent is actually budgeted for this purpose, but in any case the cost of reservations and stations is clearly not capital and would be ineligible for Mineta's support.
The Bush-Mineta plan assures that there will be no interstate passenger train service anywhere in the United States and only the most minimal, disconnected local commuter services even within individual states. Mineta clearly knows that the Congress would never vote to support a "Balkanized" Amtrak serving only eight to 12 states, yet that is the best imaginable outcome of his "plan."
Carl H. Fowler
Vice President/General Manager
Rail Travel Center