Amtrak case goes back to court

OMG WE’RE BACK AGAIN: DOT and the Association of American Railroads are back in federal court this morning over an issue that just will not quit — whether a section of a 2008 passenger rail law must be totally scrapped, or if maybe just part of it can. In one corner there’s DOT, which has managed to find nine lives (maybe fewer; we’ve lost count) to fight this case to the Supreme Court and back down again. DOT argues that the law’s provision directing Amtrak and FRA to jointly set metrics and standards for service can still stand if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit severs from it another provision that lets the STB mediate if the feds and Amtrak can’t agree on standards. That outcome would address what DOT calls a key pillar in the court’s earlier decision that a portion of the law is unconstitutional — its finding “that the FRA lacked the ability to prevent the adoption of unfair standards and metrics hinged on the role of the arbitrator,” government lawyers wrote in their reply brief.

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