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The Wall Street Journal: Next Amtrak CEO — insider Stephen Gardner — will be railroad’s fifth since 2016

Amtrak’s Stephen Gardner speaks at Union Station in Raleigh, N.C., in April.
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Amtrak has named Stephen Gardner its new chief executive, tapping a longtime executive to manage the biggest infusion of federal funding in the railroad’s half-century history.

Gardner, Amtrak’s current president, has served at the national passenger railroad since 2009 and is the architect of its plans to expand rail service between cities across the country. He will assume the top post when outgoing CEO Bill Flynn retires on Jan. 17, the company said.

Gardner, 45 years old, will be Amtrak’s fifth CEO since 2016, a period of fiscal and operational overhaul that resulted in record ridership and financial strength before COVID-19 hammered the government-owned business in early 2020.

Like his predecessors, he will have to navigate competing priorities, driving ridership growth in Amtrak’s core markets while also meeting lawmakers’ demands to keep long-distance routes running. More broadly, the railway’s ambitious plans will have to overcome skepticism among conservative officials who favor funding for cars and highways over mass transit.

“Longtime Amtrak executive Gardner, who is slated to take on the CEO role in January, is the architect of plans  to expand passenger rail service  between cities across the country.”

The infrastructure law enacted this fall gives Amtrak $22 billion in direct aid to repair and replace its own trains and tracks. It also will have access to an additional $44 billion in grants, with government and private sector partners, aimed at improving and broadening U.S. passenger rail service.

At the same time, the law constrained the company from cutting the ranks of station agents and reiterated lawmakers’ insistence that long-distance routes be maintained.

An expanded version of this report appeared at WSJ.com.

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