WASHINGTON — Amtrak and mass transit face severe budget cuts under President Trump's proposed fiscal 2018 budget. And a grant program that has provided funds for rail projects is on the verge of elimination.
The 2018 budget would eliminate subsidies for Amtrak's long-distance trains, “which have long been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses” according to budget documents released overnight. Document writers say cuts would allow the railroad's management to focus on better management of the Northeast Corridor and state-supported passenger rail services.
In a response this morning, Amtrak officials said the cuts would eliminate train service in 23 of the 46 states the system now serves. Those trains feed the Northeast Corridor and state-supported services.
“Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently,” Amtrak officials say in a statement. “We covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in [fiscal year 2016] — but these services all require Federal investment.”
The budget will not provide for any new projects under the Federal Transit Administration's capital investment program. Rather, budget document writers say the change leaves funding up to “localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
Officials with the American Public Transportation Association say they are surprised and disappointed with the budget details so far. At a time when the administration is touting $1 trillion for infrastructure, “the White House is recommending cutting billions of dollars from existing transportation and public transit infrastructure programs," APTA officials say.
Association officials say that the cuts would affect projects in Kansas City; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, Fla.
The budget proposal also calls for eliminating funding for “unauthorized” Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants. In January, the Department of Transportation announced $500 million was available for the popular program, which has been funding projects since 2009.
Among the 2016 grant recipients are San Bernardino County, Calif., which received $8.6 million for passenger rail service; Mississippi's 65-mile long Natchez Railway, that received $10 million for rehabilitation and upgrades for five bridges; and the Springfield, Ill., which received $14 million to build two underpasses for proposed high-speed service between St. Louis and Chicago.
UPDATE: Full story and comments from Amtrak and APTA. March 16, 2017, 11:43 a.m. Central time.