Government shutdown will affect rail agencies, national parks

RELATED TOPICS: REGULATION | LEGISLATION
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The Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah, like other national parks, will be closed if the government shuts down. The Department of Transportation will also be affected.
TRAINS: Jim Wrinn

WASHINGTON — A partial government shutdown, which could happen tonight, will include the U.S. Department of Transportation and could be felt in several rail-related areas.

Unless President Donald Trump and Congress reach a deal today, the shutdown of the DOT and eight other agencies will occur at midnight tonight (Dec.21). On Twitter today, President Trump tweeted that “there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time” unless Congress passes a bill including $5 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

More than 40 percent of personnel at the Federal Railroad Administration and all but 65 of the 558 staff at the Federal Transit Administration will be furloughed. The Surface Transportation Board will fully shut down.

At the FRA, those involved in essential safety roles will continue to work, although without pay. Those are primarily at the Office of Railroad Safety, which includes some FRA headquarters staff, field inspectors, and those that manage accident investigations.

Transit agencies expecting grant funds or reimbursements for ongoing operations and projects will not see their checks until agency appropriations and authorizations are resolved. The FTA would retain 15 essential life and safety staff, including seven for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) incident notification and response.

Amtrak will not be affected in the short term. Trains will keep rolling to get holiday travelers to their destinations, although those heading to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or other national parks may find them closed.

The park closures would also include two sites popular with railfans. According to the Department of Interior, visitors services and other facilities at both Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pa., and Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah will close the president does not sign a funding resolution.

A shutdown would mark the second time this year the parks have had to be closed due to a lack of government funding. It previously happened in February but only lasted a few hours. In past shutdowns, Congress has appropriated funds for back pay to both furloughed and working employees

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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