217.370.8505 cory@bletislb.org

House subcommittee advances bill that would slash funding for rail

A House subcommittee on July 12 advanced a fiscal-year 2024 appropriations bill that would slash funding to the Federal Railroad AdministrationAmtrak and several rail-related programs.

The Republican-led House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee (T-HUD) approved the bill, which would provide $90.2 billion in discretionary spending to the U.S. departments of transportation, housing and urban development, according to a summary by Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee.

Under the bill, the U.S. Department of Transportation would receive $21.6 billion in discretionary funding, which is $7.2 billion below the FY23 enacted level. The FRA would receive $1.5 billion in total budgetary resources, which is nearly $2 billion less than the FY23 enacted level and $3.3 billion below President Biden’s budget proposal.

The Federal Transit Administration would receive $14.7 billion, which is $2.3 billion below the FY23 enacted level and $2.4 billion below Biden’s budget request.

Amtrak would receive $876 million under the bill, which represents a $1.6 billion cut from the FY23 enacted level and $2.2 billion less than Biden’s budget. The House bill would also eliminate the federal-state Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program.

On July 11, Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner blasted the proposed cuts to Amtrak and the FRA. If the legislation becomes law, Amtrak would have to radically reduce or suspend service on several routes, he said.

“The proposed amount — a 64% cut from Amtrak’s FY23 annual appropriation and 76% lower than the levels authorized by Congress — would dismantle vital transportation links across America and negatively impact jobs and the American economy,” Gardner said in a prepared statement.

He added: “With almost no funding for capital expenses, Amtrak would be forced to immediately reduce vital state of good repair work needed to reliably operate our network and defer many of the major modernization projects that were funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) just over a year and a half ago.”

Amtrak funds under the IIJA are primarily for major infrastructure projects and equipment purchases — not basic maintenance, operations and daily expenditures supported by the railroad’s annual federal appropriation, Gardner said.

“At a time when Amtrak has nearly returned to pre-pandemic ridership levels and is busy generating increased revenue, creating a historic number of jobs and investing in the American economy, these proposed cuts would harm the country and take us in the wrong direction,” Gardner said.

The T-HUD approved legislation also would:

• eliminate the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) and Mega grant programs;
• halve current funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant program;
• fund the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program at $392 million, which is $1.1 billion below the FY23 enacted level and $2.5 billion below Biden’s budget request; and
• eliminate federal funding for California’s high-speed rail program.