Amtrak has countersued the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, requesting upwards of $30 million for maintenance of the rail line between Boston and Rhode Island.
The MBTA, a state-run agency that oversees mass transit in Greater Boston and commuter rail to Rhode Island, had sued the National Railroad Passenger Corp., Amtrak's corporate entity, in January.
"MBTA's refusal to honor its contractual payment obligations has resulted in financial harm to Amtrak, which could potentially jeopardize Amtrak's ability to provide rail service in Massachusetts," Amtrak said its Aug. 23 counterclaim filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston.
Amtrak also seeks an additional $175,000 from the MBTA.
MBTA attorneys asked Judge Mark Wolf for an extension to Sept. 20 to respond.
Authority officials call Amtrak's threat to cut off service idle.
"The MBTA has absolutely no reason to believe there would be a disruption in service for Amtrak customers in Massachusetts," authority spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a statement.
Under a 2003 agreement, Amtrak has used tracks on the so-called Attleboro line, which the MBTA owns, in exchange for dispatching services. Last year, however, the federal Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission called for cost-sharing between Amtrak and the states.
The MBTA, in its lawsuit, called the commission's policy unconstitutional. Amtrak and MBTA attorneys have been unable to settle the matter.
The authority, a unit of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, is under a fiscal oversight board that Gov. Charlie Baker and Massachusetts lawmakers established last year. Its debt is estimated at more than $5 billion. In fiscal 2016, its debt service costs of $452 million represent about 30% of annual operating expenses, the control board said in a report last December.
The MBTA in April blamed Amtrak maintenance personnel for signal-failure problems at South Station, a major hub that serves both Amtrak and MBTA commuter trains, which French company Keolis operates, as well as the MBTA's Red Line subway and Silver Line bus.
"Officials with the MBTA and MassDOT have conveyed their displeasure to Amtrak and will be meeting soon to discuss Amtrak changing operational and communication protocols," MBTA officials said at the time. "Amtrak was performing maintenance work on dispatch and signal systems and failed to communicate with the MBTA and Keolis about the activities.
Goodwin Procter LLP and in-house attorney John Englander are representing the MBTA. Hunton & Williams LLP and Kotin, Crabtree & Strong LLP are representing Amtrak.