National Press Club

Amtrak president calls for national transportation vision

January 16, 2014 | By Monica Coleman |

Amtrak President Joseph H. Boardman speaks at the Jan. 10 Club luncheon.

Amtrak President Joseph H. Boardman speaks at the Jan. 10 Club luncheon.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The president of Amtrak, the national passenger rail line, said the U.S. should be focused on connecting communities to each other, the way the interstate highway system did more than a half-century ago.

``America’s transportation problems are hurting small and midsized communities, making it difficult for them to grow or do business outside their area,'' Joseph H. Boardman, told a Club luncheon Jan. 10. ``Under these circumstances, you might think that strengthening national connectivity between our communities and our economic centers would be a national priority, but if thought that you would be wrong – it’s not.''

Boardman said the U.S. needs a national perspective to correct the serious problems plaguing America’s transportation system, citing poor infrastructure, old and antiquated equipment and diminishing services in many small and midsized communities.

``We need a coherent, integrated transportation policy,'' he said.``Federal transportation funding must be dedicated to making investments that are truly national in scope and generates policy outcomes the nation need. Projects funded today may not be funded in the future if they lack specific national purpose.''

Boardman said U.S. leaders must have a national vision of cohesiveness similar to the 47,000-mile interstate highway system, which was funded beginning in 1956 through a gasoline tax-fueled highway trust fund. He said the system promoted commerce on an ``unprecedented scale.''

“The purpose of a federal transportation investment is to connect this nation together and provide for interstate commerce,” Boardman said. “It was the vision of our founding fathers and the vision of the highway trust fund and a vision we have lost today. Only the federal government can address this need for national connective and only the federal government has the responsibility for providing national perspective.''

As for Amtrak, Boardman said, the railroad has set ridership records in 10 of the last 11 years and carries three times as many passengers between New York and Washington than all the airlines combined.