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Response to Re-Nomination of Rokita to Amtrak Board

August 5, 2020

Rail Passengers' President Responds to Re-Nomination of Rokita to Amtrak Board

Last Friday, I shared with you the news about Todd Rokita’s re-nomination to the Amtrak Board of Directors. Once we learned of this news, staff immediately began reaching out to Congressional offices to educate them on Rokita’s voting history. Yesterday, we sent a letter of opposition to Senate Committee on Commerce Chair Roger Wicker and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, stressing our belief Mr. Rokita is the WRONG person to provide guidance to Amtrak in these difficult times and lacks a clearly defined vision of growth for America’s railroad. You can read the entire letter here. Rest assured; the Rail Passengers Association is aggressively pushing back on this nomination.

Ultimately, individuals confirmed to serve on Amtrak’s Board of Directors need to be willing to roll up their sleeves and help Amtrak function and recover in the coronavirus environment. The House FY21 budget bill has economic stimulus funds dedicated to Amtrak that could help it thrive through the pandemic, and Board members need to have an appreciation for the significant impact Amtrak does have and can have on communities across the country. A disruptive Board member, as we believe Todd Rokita would be, could tie up the progress that must be made to get the country working again.

Conversely, nominees Sarah Feinberg, the former Federal Railroad Administrator, and Chris Koos, the Mayor of Normal, Illinois, are highly welcome choices and the Rail Passengers Association has been vocal in our support of their nominations. You can view our May 20th comments on these nominees here.

On Thursday, August 6th at 10am, Koos and Feinberg appear before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov.

Passenger rail and transit have important roles to play in getting our country back on track, socially and economically. We’ve always said that rail is an economic engine in the communities it serves, and that’s doubly true as we try to jump-start an economy battered by a worldwide pandemic. Investments in a better, more efficient U.S. transportation system that will return dividends for generations to come and a supportive Amtrak Board of Directors are critical to future accomplishments.

I encourage you to make a donation today! It’s through your support that we are able to oppose Todd Rokita’s Amtrak Board nomination as well as reinforce support for qualified individual nominees.



-Jim Mathews, President & CEO | Rail Passengers Association