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AMTRAK is the intercity passenger train service in the U.S. with routes in 46 states and three Canadian provinces.[1] "On May 1, 1971 the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK) began operating the nation's intercity passenger railroads ... For the first time in history, a unified, centrally-managed, nationwide rail passenger network will provide uniform and rising standards of service for all United States citizens."[2]

Board of Directors' Status at Issue

On January 4, 2006, President George W. Bush made recess appointments naming Floyd Hall and Enrique J. Sosa to the Board of Directors.

President Bush made recess appointments on September 12, 2003, naming Floyd Hall, Robert L. Crandall, and Louis S. Thompson to the Board. According to White House nomination records, President Bush appointed Enrique J. Sosa to the Board on February 6, 2004. None of the appointees have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, although one report states that Crandall and Thompson were approved by the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee. They have not been confirmed by the Senate nor are they listed as board members.

During the November 6, 2003, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation confirmation hearing for nominees Crandall, Hall, and Thompson, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said:

"Since 1997, the Amtrak Board has been comprised mostly of politicians, including three governors and one mayor, despite the fact the statute requires that Board members have 'technical qualifications, professional standing, and demonstrated expertise in the fields of transportation or corporate or financial management'. I believe that the composition of the Board contributed greatly to Amtrak’s disastrous results. For example, that Board allowed a new train to be operated in Wisconsin that ended up losing $1,200 per passenger before it was halted in 2001 and did nothing to ensure the Congress was provided accurate information with respect to Amtrak’s true financial performance.
"The nominees before us bring a wealth of business and transportation experience to the Amtrak Board. Lou Thompson is the U.S. expert on international rail reform and earlier in his career managed the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project for eight years. In Bob Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines, and Floyd Hall, former CEO of K-Mart, we have two seasoned business executives who I hope can help Amtrak become a market-driven, rather than a politically-motivated, company."

On June 30, 2004, Friends of Amtrak reported that former Amtrak Board member Michael Dukakis said:

"Amtrak's Board has dwindled down from seven to only two members thus making it difficult for the rail corporation to make decisions. To permit a situation to deteriorate to the point where you end up with the board consisting of the secretary of transportation's designee and one appointee of the administration is just irresponsible in my opinion."
"According to a report in the Boston Globe, 'The vacancies on the Amtrak board -- and attempts to fill them now caught in partisan politics -- is the latest in a series of crises facing the rail system. Amtrak has a long list of stories of ill-will on Capitol Hill: of how inadequate funding has threatened bridge supports and service in the Northeast corridor; of funding woes prompting service cuts; and of nearly half of its union employees threatening a one-day strike to protest the annual funding battles in Congress.'"

Following the November 9, 2005, firing of Board President and CEO David L. Gunn, "[o]f the four current board members, only Mr. Laney was confirmed by the Senate for the job. Two of the appointees, Enrique Sosa and Floyd Hall, were recess appointments put in place by President Bush under Article 2 of the Constitution, which allows the president to name people to fill vacancies that occur when Congress is out of session," Matthew L. Wald wrote in the November 13, 2005, New York Times. "Such appointees serve only until the end of the Congressional session, meaning that Mr. Sosa's and Mr. Hall's terms will end when the current session of Congress ends in a few weeks."

Current Board Members

Former nominees/leaders


President Richard M. Nixon signed the Rail Passenger Service Act on October 30, 1970, authorizing the National Railroad Passenger Corporation "to manage the basic national rail network and operate trains under contracts with the railroads.

"The corporation was incorporated by eight Presidential appointees: David W. Kendall, chairman; General Frank S. Besson, Jr., vice chairman; David E. Bradshaw; John J. Gilhooley; Arthur D. Lewis; Charles Luna; Catherine May Bedell; and John P. Olsson.

"On April 21, 1971, the President nominated eight people to serve on the corporation's Board of Directors. The remainder of the 15-person Board [was to] be elected by corporation shareholders (three by railroads, four by preferred stockholders).

"The Presidential appointments, subject to Senate confirmation, include[d] six of the original incorporators. Mr. Gilhooley, chairman and president of Urban Industries, Inc., was nominated for a four-year term. Nominated for three-year terms were General Besson, former chairman of the Pentagon's Joint Logistics Review Board; Mr. Bradshaw, a Chicago attorney, and Mr. Luna, president of the United Transportation Union. Mrs. Bedell, former Representative (R., Wash.) , and Mr. Kendall, chairman of AMTRAK's incorporators, were the President's choices for two-year terms.

"The two remaining Presidential nominations [would] be new to the corporation. Nominated to serve in place of Arthur Lewis and John Olsson [were] Roger Lewis, president of General Dynamics Corporation, nominated for a four-year term, and Transportation Secretary John A. Volpe, for a two-year term."

Source: AMTRAK Historical Society.

Documents & reports

  • Statement of the Honorable Tommy Thompson, Chairman of the AMTRAK Reform Board before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine of the Senate Commerce Committee, AMTRAK Oversight Hearing, Wednesday, February 23, 2000.

Contact information

60 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Inside AMTRAK, AMTRAK website, accessed November 2010.
  2. History, AMTRAK Historical Society, accessed November 2010.

External links