(May 17) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amtrak service may be spared from the chopping block. At least for now.

A House subcommittee has indicated that Amtrak may get the money it says it needs to survive and avoid cutting routes.

The House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads adopted a proposal that would guarantee Amtrak’s existence for another year, thus allowing more time for the development of a long-term strategy.

If the proposal is approved by Congress and signed by President Bush, it would grant Amtrak the $1.2 bil-lion it requested for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The bill also would provide $775 million for safety and security upgrades.

Meanwhile, Stan Bagley, Amtrak’s executive vice president of operations, told the Associated Press that a recent series of accidents, including a train derailment in Florida and a crash in South Carolina, have left the struggling railroad with no room for mistakes.

“I’m one derailment away from having to cut service,” he said.

Bagley said Amtrak had a backlog of 89 wrecked cars and locomotives that it couldn’t fix because of money troubles.

Amtrak has said in the past that if it receives less than $1.2 billion in federal funding, it will have to cut services, starting with its 18 long distance routes.

Kevin McKinney, vice president of marketing and administration for Detroit-based ExpressTrak LLC, a company that has a deal with Amtrak to haul produce in refrigerated railcars behind Amtrak passenger trains, said the future is not all gloom and doom for the rail system.

A new president, David Gunn, took over on May 15, and McKinney said he has a reputation for fixing bad situations.

“He’s turned around a number of transit agencies,” McKinney said. “He cleaned up the New York subway system.”

McKinney said internal changes such as adding a new president could sway more members of Congress in favor of funding for Amtrak.

“I think Congress was looking for some type of change internally,” he said. “Now they are waiting to see what the (Bush) administration thinks should be done.”

McKinney said the funding bill has a good chance of getting through Congress.

“It came out with strong committee support,” he said. “That’s always a good sign.”