State asked to kick in more money for Amtrak

Written by Craig Layne and Radio Pennsylvania | Feb 28, 2013 4:01 AM
Amtrak Pennsylvanian.jpg

(Harrisburg) -- The federal government wants Pennsylvania to pay more for passenger train service west of Harrisburg, which has some communities in the midstate and western PA concerned about losing access to Amtrak trains.

In the railroading tradition of naming trains, Amtrak calls its two trips a day between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh the "Pennsylvanian."

Currently, the federal government foots the bill for the journey that carried an average of 568 people per day in 2011 and serves stops like Lewistown, Mifflin County.

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch says the state is being asked to pay some $6.5 million dollars toward the operating expenses of the route.

He says the commonwealth currently pays nothing.

"The subsidy, at the rate they're asking us to subsidize it, would be $27 per trip, per rider," Schoch says. "We have no intention of stopping the train service from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, however we are objecting to what we believe is an unfair assessment of Amtrak on the cost of providing that service."

Schoch says the state pays between $8 and $9 million annually to subsidize the Amtrak route known as the "Keystone Service," between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

The feds want that amount to rise to between $14 and $15 million.

Train riders in Huntingdon County plan to rally in support of the western PA service Friday morning at the train station in Huntingdon.

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