(May 20) NORFOLK, Va. — While the future may be in doubt, the present is staying on track for ExpressTrak LLC.

The company, which signed a 15-year contract in 1999 with Amtrak to move refrigerated cargo in cars attached to the back of Amtrak passenger trains, is doing almost more business than it can handle.

“We had a near record month in April,” said Kevin McKinney, vice president of marketing and administration. “I only wish I had more cars so we could do more business.”

The extra cars may have to wait awhile. While Amtrak is in a battle with the federal government over its future, ExpressTrak is in the middle of its own struggle with Amtrak.

In 2002, Amtrak president David Gunn made a decision to get Amtrak out of the express business, including its dry express business and the refrigerated business, which is handled solely by ExpressTrak.

Not willing to go down without a fight, ExpressTrak has taken the matter to court, working to hold Amtrak to the remaining 11 years on the 15-year contract.

In December, the judge presiding over the case issued a temporary injunction to prevent Amtrak from making changes to ExpressTrak’s operation while the case was pending.

Now, with the case moving to arbitration, McKinney said the judge recently made that temporary injunction a permanent one.

“The idea was to protect the viability of the operation while this whole thing is litigated,” he said.

In other words, ExpressTrak isn’t going anywhere for the time being. There is no way of knowing how long the arbitration process will take — it could be years — but during that time ExpressTrak will remain in operation.

Meanwhile, Amtrak continues its battle for survival against the federal government. McKinney said he doesn’t much care for the plan set forth by the Bush administration to break up the railroad and allow it to be run by individual states.

“I think that’s pretty much insane,” he said. “It’s tantamount to shutting Amtrak down.”

McKinney said that in most cases where a state is running a train system, such as California, that system is largely self-contained within the state. Such is not the case with Amtrak.

“Most other places have multi-state corridors,” he said. “It’s hard to get the states together to agree on running those routes. You couldn’t get eight states together to agree on the time of day, let alone support a long route like that.”

In spite of the turmoil, McKinney said ExpressTrak’s business has been steady. The company recently shipped its first load of avocados from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

The avocados were shipped by Mission Produce, Oxnard, Calif.

In addition, the company has been doing back-haul loads, taking product shipped into the Port of Philadelphia from Costa Rica and moving it by train to Los Angeles.

“I don’t see us expanding right now,” McKinney said. “But I don’t see us contracting or going away, either.”