Amtrak Chases Priority Track After Regulatory Power Axed

Law360 discusses a federal statute that allows Amtrack to set performance and scheduling standards with Marc Scribner. 

“This court saw it correctly that you can’t have a self-interested party be granted coercive power, that is recognized as a due process violation and that’s fairly well-established,” Marc Scribner, a transportation policy research fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Law360. “In essence, Amtrak does have priority, as it has had for decades.”

Decades after creating Amtrak as a for-profit entity in 1970, Congress in 2008 gave Amtrak the power to collaborate with the Federal Railroad Administration on standards defining Amtrak’s statutory “priority” over freight trains running on the same tracks. That meant Amtrak could help come up with metrics for what is considered an on-time train, allowing it to bolster its economic position while frustrating freight railroads that actually own most of the tracks, experts say.

“It shouldn’t have been put into PRIIA to begin with and [Congress] was warned about that at the time,” Scribner said. “I don’t think Congress is going to make the mistake to try this again.”

“It’ll be interesting to see if the FRA does attempt to initiate rulemaking to sort out the metrics and standards since they don’t seem to be able to wield [much of the powers granted to it in PRIIA],” Scribner said. “Under existing law, the folks at FRA can more aggressively enforce some of these existing statutes, but given the stated stance of the current administration on regulatory issues, I see that becoming less likely.”

Read the full article at Law360