Commentary: Will Amtrak go with Gunn gone?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 18, 2005

Under David Gunn, Amtrak achieved its highest ridership in history. He cut service where it made sense. He trimmed payroll and started to upgrade Amtrak's dilapidated rolling stock.  But he wouldn't do what Gunn says the Bush-appointed Amtrak board really wanted him to do - and that is, destroy Amtrak.

In his budget proposal last year, President Bush wanted to zero out all federal support for the national rail service, a move Gunn opposed and Congress wisely rejected.  It is ludicrous to ask passenger train service to operate without government support. No other transportation sector in the country - not airlines, not highways, not seaports - can meet such a standard.  So Gunn's dismissal is a loss not just for fans of passenger rail, but for those who want an efficient balanced transportation system for the country.

While the Bush administration seems doggedly determined to kill the nation's passenger rail service, Congress has repeatedly sought to rescue Amtrak. Now, with Gunn’s departure, if passenger rail is to survive, Congress must move quickly and forcefully, to save it once again.