Supply Chain Woes Spur GOP Push to Cut Amtrak’s Track Rights

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Amtrak’s passenger trains would no longer be given priority over freight trains on certain railroads under legislation being introduced Thursday.

The bill, first obtained by Bloomberg Government, would cut Amtrak’s right of track preference within 50 miles of a port or rail yard. Republicans say the legislation, dubbed the Freights First Act, would help ease supply chain challenges and improve business conditions. Still, the measure would likely frustrate the passenger rail corporation.

“Railway bottlenecks and time delays at critical junctures create empty shelves in stores and higher prices for consumers,” Eric Burlison (R-Mo.), the bill’s sponsor and a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said. “We should find ways to cut red tape to benefit our supply chain instead of providing special treatment to poor stewards of the people’s money like Amtrak.”

Democrats, on the other hand, pushed for legislation in the last Congress that would have given Amtrak the ability to enforce its preference rights over freight railroads in court.

Freight railroads are currently required to provide Amtrak with preference to run passenger trains before freight ones, but Amtrak has complained that doesn’t always happen and that long freight trains cause delays for their operations. Republicans criticized Amtrak’s losses, federal funding needs, and ridership levels at a House hearing this week, where the rail corporation’s CEO Stephen Gardner testified.

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A group of Republicans joined Burlison on the House bill, including Troy Nehls (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee overseeing railroads. Supply chain troubles amplified during the pandemic spurred increased interest from lawmakers who are now working to advance bills to remedy any weaknesses in transportation, even though the more acute disruptions have dissipated.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at; Michaela Ross at

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