By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local group that advocates for mass transit in the region is fighting to make sure a looming funding crisis doesn’t endanger Amtrak’s line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg next year.

Amtrak has been ordered by Congress to slash its $8-million annual subsidy for the Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg “Keystone” route.

Matthew Mitchell, of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, says state officials have been negotiating with Amtrak in hopes of preserving the subsidy.

“(In) the worst-case scenario,” Mitchell tells KYW Newsradio, that eight million dollars goes to zero.  That means that PennDOT would have to step in.”

Mitchell doubts that the state could replace the entire $8 million, but he’s holding out hope that by next year, with a new Congress in place, Amtrak would end up doing more.

“It’s quite possible that following the inauguration of a new Congress, there will be possibly a change to this mandate,” he says.

Ironically, Amtrak next year will use faster locomotives on the Keystone line.  Mitchell believes the Keystone line needs to be saved.

“This is an outcome we really want to avoid, because there’s been a lot of positive momentum for the Keystone service, both in terms of ridership and improvements in the quality of service: improved frequency and improved speed.”

Another option for PennDOT, according to Mitchell, is having another operator — perhaps SEPTA — run the line instead of Amtrak.


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