Another stimulus mandate: Federal rail money comes with no-liability strings attached

amtrak

The stimulus might have been a horrible job creator and an utter failure at actual economic stimulation, but the program was unparallelled at generating additional federal mandates.

If only the people at Trinity Railway Express in Irving would show a little appreciation.

Amtrak has $7.2 million just waiting for the joint office of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit. All it has to do is accept liability for Amtrak’s famed rail service on its tracks, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says today.

Amtrak, whose sole success in the past 40 years is losing less money than its own budget specialists expect, is nothing if not a stickler for the rules. At the time of its creation, when Amtrak needed rail to run on, it agreed to assume liability for anything involving their engines and cars, the story says. Once up and running all bets on liability were off.

Trinity Railway applied for and in 2010 received a $7.2 million stimulus grant to double-track some of its line between Dallas and Fort Worth, a benefit to both transit services and Amtrak.

Allowing Amtrak trains to run on better transit tracks would help clear the way for TEX Rail, a commuter line from Fort Worth to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport engineers were hoping to complete in 2016.

Nothing doing, Trinity says, unless Amtrak assumes liability for its own derailments and crashes. Amtrak isn’t budging, and U.S. Department of Transportation officials say that unless Trinity accepts the deal as-is before the end of August the money will return to the federal government.

Where it will stimulate a very minor spasm of spending on something else.

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Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of Amtrak train by flickr user Jack_Snell, used via a Creative Commons license.