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This is the kind of stuff that drives you crazy: Huge private corporations giving a giant middle finger to our government . . . which means to us. It’s a bit complicated, so I’ll give you a very short summary.
Until 2005, Amtrak’s train, the Sunset Limited, literally ran across the country, from Los Angeles across Arizona and New Mexico and Texas to New Orleans. From there, the train continued on across the Florida panhandle, finally terminating in Orlando.
Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck and long stretches of railroad track east of New Orleans were washed away. Two freight railroads were involved—CSX and Norfolk Southern—and both were unwilling to do without that important stretch of track.
And so, within a year, land farther inland was acquired, new track laid, and the rail link between New Orleans and Florida’s Atlantic Coast was restored. Surely that would mean passenger service will also return.
Well . . . uh . . . no.
For more than 15 years, CSX stalled and Amtrak fussed and government regulators dithered. Remember, the federal law that created Amtrak 50 years ago specified that Amtrak trains would be allowed to run on track owned by the freight railroads, for which they would receive fair compensation.
Finally, primarily as the result of the Rail Passengers Association pressing all parties, Amtrak sought approval to run a train once a day in each direction between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. Distance? Something like 150 miles.
Would you like to know what CSX thought was “fair compensation” for running two Amtrak trains a day over 150 miles and back? Two billion dollars. That’s right . . . two billion, with a B!
It has come to this: a multi-billion dollar corporation—in clear violation of the conditions they agreed to 50 years ago and presumably are still bound by legally—responding to a formal proposal from U.S. government and Amtrak on behalf of you and me. It was a hand with a raised middle finger.
And so, in the coming days and weeks, the Biden Administration and the Congress will have to get together and decide: Who the hell is in charge here?
This article first appeared on www.trainsandtravel.com
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