Alaska Congressman Don Young had some good news for the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC). He informed them Thursday that ARRC will continue to receive funding near current levels through Federal Transit Administration (FTA) formula funds. Young served on the conference committee and on the House committee with FTA jurisdiction.
Late Wednesday evening a House-Senate Conference Committee reached an agreement on the surface transportation bill that includes funding for ARRC in a new funding formula. Details of the formula and the exact amount of funding for the railroad were not confirmed, but the railroad was told to expect about $31 million compared to the $35.8 million ARRC currently receives. The Senate bill would have reduced FTA funds by at least 75%. The House bill did not change the amount of FTA funds. The final conference approved bill is close to the House position, according to reports.
Chris Aadnesen, ARRC President and CEO thanked the Alaska Congressman and Senators Murkowski and Begich for their hard work to retain its funding. The City of Seward joined with other Alaska cities in calling for continued funding. The city was concerned what funding cuts could mean in terms of passenger rail service to Seward during the tourist season, and to the railroad’s troubled finances in general.
“We deeply appreciate their backing as well as the support we received from Alaskans from every corner of the state, our employees, and labor leaders from across the country,” Aadnesen said. “The fact that we had Don Young, who is such a great fighter for Alaska and the railroad, on the conference committee was absolutely invaluable. His long-term relationships with many of the House and Senate conference committee Members were critical to our success.” Both the House and the Senate are expected to consider the conference committee approved legislation this week.