BRIAN WESTLEY Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON
Amtrak on Tuesday tapped the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration to lead the national passenger railroad for a year. Joseph Boardman replaces Chief Execut ive Alex Kummant , who resigned Nov. 14 after two years marked by significant growth in ridership and revenue. Boardman, 59, has spent his career working on transportation issues at all levels of government. He takes over as president and CEO on Wednesday, Dec. 3, and will serve for one year, Amtrak's board of directors announced. A search will begin in the coming months for a permanent replacement. "He is intimately familiar with Amtrak, its strengths, its weaknesses and the direction it needs to go to build momentum," Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said. "He can begin to lead the company immediately." Boardman has served as administrator of the FRA since 2005 and repres e n t e d t h e D e p a r t m e n t o f Transportation on Amtrak's board. Before joining the Bush administration, he was commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation beginning in 1997. "I am keenly aware of the challenges facing us right now," Boardman said in a statement. "In my view, a national intercity, interconnected passenger rail service is critically important for the mobility and energy independence of the United States." His quick appointment was applauded by passenger rail advocates. Ross Capon, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, described Boardman as a "knowledgeable and hard-nosed leader" who will push for passenger rail funding as part of any federal stimulus package involving infrastructure. Boardman takes over Amtrak nearly two months after Bush signed into law a bill calling for the passenger railroad to receive $13 billion over five years in subsidies. Congress must separately approve the money each year Amtrak has posted six years of ridership and revenue growth, due in part to high gasoline and airline prices. The railroad carried a record 28.7 million people last year, with each of its routes seeing gains an 11 percent increase over the 25.8 million trips taken in fiscal year 2007. Still, the 37-year-old government-owned corporation has never made money. Amtrak officials point out that passenger rail is subsidized throughout the world.