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Thu July 2, 2009
Governor approves Amtrak subsidy
By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network
EAST LANSING, MI – Governor Granholm has approved a budget bill that includes 400 thousand dollars to keep two Amtrak lines operating in Michigan through the end of September. The lines run between Chicago and Grand Rapids and Chicago and Port Huron.
The state pays Amtrak about $7 million a year to run the Pere Marquette and the Blue Water lines that connect 22 Michigan cities to Chicago. The additional money pays for higher-than-expected fuel costs. Amtrak says there aren't enough riders to support the lines without money from the state.
State Representative John Espinoza backs the subsidy, but says the state and Amtrak need to find a way to get more riders taking the train.
"So, I'm hoping that they are successful, not only because it's a good service," he says, "but also because of the situation we are budget-wise, we just can't continue to subsidize forever."
The size of the subsidy for the coming fiscal year is still being debated by the Legislature. Amtrak says if the amount is reduced, the Pere Marquette and Blue Water lines might not be running by this time next year.