“Problems arise when passenger agencies design routes and plans without including freight hosts, then expect a stamp after the plans are publicly announced,” wrote Wes Lujan, assistant vice president of external relations. at Union Pacific, in a statement. recent statement.
Mr Biden, a longtime racer who earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe” while in the Senate, pointed to the problem last month in his executive order on competition, reiterating that, by law, Amtrak takes precedence over freight trains.
Democratic lawmakers in the House are also trying to fix the problem. Under the House’s version of the infrastructure bill, Amtrak could go directly to federal court to assert its right to go first, rather than going to the Surface Transportation Board.
“That would give Amtrak a hammer blow, and then I think the freight railroads would say, ‘Oh, yeah, okay, we’re going to adjust our schedule a bit here, even though it’s a bit of work.’ said Rep. Peter A DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
In few places this tension is more evident than along the Gulf Coast.
In March, Amtrak asked the Surface Transportation Board to restore two daily train service between Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the railroad in 2005. CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway – the companies that own the rail lines – backed down, expressing concerns about the consequences for their freight.
Bryan Tucker, a spokesperson for CSX, said the company is not opposed to Amtrak’s expansion, but wants another study to be done to better determine potential delays in freight service.
John C. Driscoll, director of the Alabama State Port Authority, said such studies were likely to show that further improvements, such as additional lanes off the main line to prevent traffic, would be needed.