Is MoDOT About to Sabotage Our Amtrak Service?
Posted by Transit Action Network on June 1, 2014
We have been hearing — direct from MoDOT staff — that getting a reliable funding stream for Missouri’s twice-daily Missouri River Runner passenger rail service is one of the advantages of having the proposed 3/4 percent sales tax for transportation.
Now we hear that the trains will not be part of the sales tax project list, and that we’ll continue to have to go to the General Assembly for annual appropriations out of general revenue.
So we posed the question to MoDOT via Twitter:
“@MoDOT – Serious question: How do you propose that @MoRiverRunner be funded? What about funding additional service? Response please. Thx.”
We have received their response:
“@MoRiverRunner definitely a valuable service for Missourians. MoDOT will continue to pursue general revenue funds for it.”
Translation: Passenger rail won’t be part of the sales tax package.
This makes no sense to us. If the voters pass this sales tax then Legislators will say: “Hey, MoDOT, we let you ask voters for a sales tax with the flexibility to fund transportation choices. Now you are back here again asking for money for Amtrak? Give us a break!”
If this is true, it would run counter to MoDOT’s expressed desire to provide expanded transportation choices, in response to citizen input during the recent “On The Move” long range transportation plan process.
What gives, MoDOT?
The explanation we got just days ago from a mid-level MoDOT representative was that they were concerned that the sales tax funding might not extend beyond the ten-year span of this “temporary” sales tax. Well, if that’s the case, how do they justify doing anything? Nothing is certain about the future. Isn’t ten years of certainty for passenger rail a whole lot better than ten years of annual uncertainty?
MoDOT staff have worked for years with Amtrak and the Union Pacific (the host railroad) to speed up the trains and prepare for eventually expanding the service by adding a third and fourth daily round trip. Don’t undercut all that work by putting the Missouri River Runner trains back on a year-at-a-time, hand-to-mouth basis. If you do, MoDOT, your credibility will be seriously damaged.