Pennsylvania and Virginia are among the states that have already agreed to pay for service, citing the need to ease road congestion, spur economic development and remain connected to the Northeast line. But other states, like Indiana, are still debating what to do. In most cases, the routes run at a loss, say state officials, who view them more as an infrastructure investment like a highway.
The cost-sharing arrangement between Amtrak and the states, mandated by a 2008 law, is designed to reduce federal support for Amtrak, which has received nearly $40 billion in taxpayer subsidies since its founding in 1971, and has never made a profit. Last year, the railroad got about $1.4 billion in federal money for its operations, rail maintenance and equipment purchases.
Last year, Amtrak — which says ticket prices and fees cover about 88 percent of its operating costs — lost more than $450 million, mostly a result of constant maintenance of tracks and bridges that are decades old. Its long-distance routes also contribute to the losses, but they are not included in the cost-sharing program because they cross so many states.