Trump administration budget would end long-distance Amtrak trains, cut DOT spending

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s proposed 2020 budget calls for refocusing Amtrak on routes of less than 750 miles and would slash discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation by 21.5 percent, a decrease of $5.1 billion.

“Simply put, Amtrak trains inadequately serve many rural markets while not serving many growing metropolitan areas at all,” the plan states. Instead, the administration envisions a partnership between Amtrak and bus operators to serve rural areas and requests $550 million in “transitional funding” to help states take over these routes. Grants to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor would also be cut in half from $650 million to $325.5 million. There is no funding for the Gateway Tunnel project.

In all, the budget’s $1.49 billion in Amtrak funding represents a 22 percent cut from the 2019 figure of $1.9 billion.

The Capital Investments Grant program, which funds commuter rail, light rail, and streetcar systems along with bus rapid transit and ferries, would be cut by $800 million.

In general, the budget seeks to shift much of the responsibility for transportation project to state and local entities. “The 2020 Budget continues certain important transportation infrastructure investments,” the document states in its summary of the DOT, “but in a way that also recognizes that the federal government is not — and should not be — the primary funder of the nation’s transportation systems.”

That concept received a cold reception from Democrats, who control the House of Representatives. In a statement, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, “In effect, the Trump budget would shirk federal responsibility when it comes to our nation’s infrastructure, putting a massive burden on cash-strapped states and local communities and doing nothing to meaningfully address our nation’s infrastructure needs.”

There are bright spots for transportation in the proposal. The budget fully funds FAST Act programs and calls for long-term surface transportation reauthorization. It doubles funding for INFRA grants to $2 billion, which can be used for ports, intermodal, or rail projects including grade crossing separation, in addition to highway projects. And it provides $1 billion for BUILD grants, previously known as TIGER grants.

The administration also requests $200 billion for “other infrastructure projects,” but points those toward “visionary projects” such as 5G cellular communications and artificial intelligence.

The complete budget is available here.


NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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