News & Reviews News Wire Senate confirms three nominees for Amtrak board

Senate confirms three nominees for Amtrak board

By Trains Staff | January 24, 2024

Koos, Coscia, Szabat set to serve after Tuesday votes

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Man speaking at hearing
Normal, Ill., Mayor Chris Koos, an Amtrak board nominee, speaks at a June 2023 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee. Screenshot from committee video

WASHINGTON — For the first time in more than eight years, the Amtrak board of directors has new members.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nominations of Christopher Koos, Anthony Coscia, and Joel Szabat to serve on the board, the first time the Senate has confirmed board members since 2015.

Man at table in congressional hearing room
Anthony Coscia, current Amtrak board chairman, testifies during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing for three Amtrak board nominees on Wednesday, June 21. Screenshot from committee video

Koos, the mayor of Normal, Ill., had been nominated three times. Coscia joined the Amtrak board in 2010 and has been serving as its chairman since 2013, continuing to do so since the expiration of his term while no new members were confirmed. Szabat, nominated for the first time last year, had previously served on the board as the representative of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao from 2019 to 2021. All three had been previously confirmed by voice vote of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation following a hearing in June 2023, but their nominations had been placed on hold because the Biden administration’s full slate of board nominees did not meet requirements for geographic balance [see “Senators remain concerned …,” Trains News Wire, June 21, 2023].

Szabat was confirmed by a vote of 96-1, Koos by a 91-7 vote, and Coscia by a 79-18 vote.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the committee on commerce, science, and transportation, said in a Tuesday statement that she “applauds today’s confirmations” of the three nominees and looks forward “to the work they will do to enhance the passenger experience and improve reliability.”

Man in suit speaking into microphone at hearing-room table
Amtrak board nominee Joel Szabat speaks at Wednesday’s hearing. Screenshot from Senate Commerce Committee video

Koos told WGLT-FM, “It has been a long time coming, but I am looking forward to the work ahead. Amtrak is in a unique position to expand its services nationwide. It is a challenge, but I’m flattered to be chosen to be a part of that.”

U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement that Koos “has a long history as a powerful, positive voice in Illinois’ transportation sector. He understands the importance of passenger rail to communities in Illinois, the Midwest, and nationwide. … We voted for his confirmation today with the confidence that he will grow and protect Amtrak’s national network.”

The vote came after U.S. Sen Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who had been one of those placing a hold on the nominations over concern about the geographic issue, said in a statement earlier Tuesday that the White House had “committed to comply with the law and will be sending the Senate nominees that better represent all passenger needs. Upon that commitment, I intend to advance the Amtrak board of director nominees this week, so they can get to work bolstering our entire nation’s rail system.”

Amtrak is governed by a 10-member board, including the U.S. Transportation Secretary; Amtrak’s CEO (a non-voting member), and eight members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

13 thoughts on “Senate confirms three nominees for Amtrak board

  1. After David Gunn, I thought Joe Boardman was a waste of time. Well, he was a Rhodes Scholar compared to the bunch of drones in charge now. “We don’t wan to take our trains out in the snow…they might get hurt…” seems to be their mentality!

  2. With Koos, does this mean that we will finally have a voice for our neglected Texas Eagle?! Or should I say Eaglet? Down to 4 cars from 8 pre-pandemic!!!

  3. Jim Sainsburys’ post is spot on!! And reinforces my experience 1950-to 1960 as both a resident of Northwest Indiana and avid rail fan and frequent New York Central rider that the trains always ran regardless of the weather.

  4. FWIW: As a life-long (with a few interruptions) resident of tundraland (Wisconsin), I do not remember the Milwaukee cancelling Hiawathas or the Chippewa and Copper Country Limited, the latter 2 coming through hometown Kiel day and night.

  5. Coscia gets another term. He has presided over Amtraks decline and fall and he hired Richard Anderson who is responsible for Amtrak being in the state of disrepair it currently in now.
    The Senate drove the final nail in Amtraks coffin. Thanks for nothing

    1. You nailed it, Mr. Lustig. From what I’ve read, either at the Newswire or Trainorders “Passenger Trains” forum, Sen. Charles Schumer is Coscia’s buddy and has championed his re-nomination. And we all know Chuckie is a railfan and never misses a chance to ride ALB-WAS even with having to change trains at NYP. Sure.

  6. I just sent this letter to both Illinois senators.


    I am a frequent Amtrak rider and a supporter of rail travel. For years the maintenance yard just south of Chicago Union Station has been unable to keep the trains running reliably regardless of the weather. This year’s winter cancellations are especially concerning because Amtrak and the Midwest states have obtained new locomotives and cars that were supposed to eliminate winter cancelations and delays. The long-distance trains have been canceled on many days because of blizzards and extreme cold.

    It is somewhat understandable to cancel because of extreme cold, but then to have trains canceled because there are no usable engines after several days of cancelations is simply unacceptable. What were people doing when these trains were not operating? There are buildings in the yard where people can work indoors to maintain equipment. It is not acceptable that this type of incompetence goes on and on and on with no accountability.

    The airlines are operating. Busses are operating. And Metra is operating. But not Amtrak. The United States is rapidly becoming a third-world country because of incompetence, indolence, and laziness. A functional rail system would take pressure off of the road system and airline system. Uneliable service simply encourages people to rely on driving or flying. This is something that should be corrected within the next 6 months. It is no longer acceptable to say “Well in two years when xyz happens then we will be ready to go.” I am hopeful that you can focus on this issue so that Amtrak operations can be reliable and our country can have a decent rail system.

    Thank you,

    Steve Weagant

    1. I still find cold inexcusable, minus 40 through Edmonton, across Saskatchewan and VIA kept running.

    2. Mr. Weagant: Please let us know if either Duckworth or Durbin reply and if they do if that reply Is anything more than fluff. And if either address the service situations you so very well spell out. I’m not holding my breath. When either one chooses to travel Amtrak back and forth CHI-DC and see in the flesh the good, the bad, and the ugly of what Coscia and Gardner have wrought since 2018, I’ll take them seriously.

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