Amtrak Cuts Could Wipe Out Service In Ohio

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ohio would be cut off from Amtrak's rail system if the company goes ahead with threatened reductions to long-distance service.

Amtrak officials compiled a tentative list of 18 routes that could be cut this fall unless the government drastically increases the money it spends on passenger rail. Five of those routes serve 11 cities in Ohio.

Among them: the "Cardinal" from Washington to Chicago through Cincinnati; the "Three Rivers," linking New York and Chicago via Youngstown and Akron; and the "Pennsylvanian," connecting Philadelphia to Chicago through Cleveland and Toledo.

Other Ohio cities that would lose service are Hamilton, Alliance, Elyria, Sandusky, Fostoria and Bryan.

Amtrak warned last week that it would cancel the routes unless it receives $1.2 billion in the 2003 budget year, which begins in October. President Bush's budget proposal released Monday calls for $521 million for Amtrak -- the same amount as the last three years.

"The administration is getting so tied up with its plan to prosecute war anywhere it wants to in the world that it's forgetting to take care of things at home," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Cleveland.

Kucinich, who is chairman of the liberal House Progressive Caucus, said Tuesday the long-term viability of Amtrak is in jeopardy and the government should do all it can to keep the trains running.

"It's a critical part of our nation's transportation system," Kucinich said. He said the caucus will introduce legislation to protect the train service to Ohio and other affected states.

Meanwhile, the White House has said it's premature to discuss additional funding until Congress and the administration decide how to restructure Amtrak.

The Amtrak Reform Council was expected to release a report Thursday recommending that the government break up the railroad and open passenger rail to competition.

Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette, a member of the House Transportation Committee, agreed. He said it's too early in the budget process to worry about the future of Amtrak.

"We always appreciate the president's input," said LaTourette, a Republican from Madison. "We've fought the fight on Amtrak for years and we've won it every year, and I have no reason to think that we won't this year."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)