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Action Alert: U.S. House Proposes 80% Cut to Rail!

July 14, 2023

The proposed cuts will be taken up by the House Committee on Appropriations next week. If passed, they would endanger service for more than 20 million intercity passengers and threaten the elimination of tens of thousands of operating, manufacturing, and construction jobs.

Rail Passengers Association is rallying opposition against a House transportation budget proposal that would slash Amtrak’s funding by 64%, threatening present and future service for every intercity train passenger in the country.

The House Committee on Appropriation's draft Fiscal Year 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill includes severe cuts to several transportation programs, including:

  • A shocking 92 percent cut to Amtrak Northeast Corridor operating grant;
  • A 68 percent cut to Amtrak's National Network operating grant;
  • The zeroing out of the exciting new Federal – State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program, which is being used to upgrade and expand intercity train service across the U.S.;
  • A 51 percent cut to the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program, which funds upgrades to both freight and passenger rail infrastructure and safety systems; and
  • An 85 percent cut to Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG), used to fund transit and commuter rail infrastructure (which has been used to help advance some intercity rail projects, such as construction on Amtrak’s new Hudson River rail tunnel).

[You can read more details about funding levels and policy provisions in the bill here.]

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation advanced the bill by a voice vote this Wednesday. The full Appropriations Committee will take it up next week on Tuesday, July 18th.

Amtrak is warning that $875 million fails "to meet the minimum level Amtrak needs in order to operate its trains, maintain its assets, and ensure a safe railroad in FY 24," and that enacting this budget into law will result in sweeping cuts to service on the Northeast Corridor, State-Supported corridors, and Long-Distance Routes. It would also devastate Amtrak's workforce, which is just recovering from decisions made by Amtrak management to furlough employees during the pandemic.

Rail Passengers is helping lead a coalition of passenger organizations and organized labor groups from across the country, urging Congress to reject the negative vision outlined in the House’s draft bill.

“These cuts would destabilize operations on the nation’s busiest rail corridor and threaten the elimination of Amtrak service for hundreds of cities and small towns across the U.S., impacting as many as 20 million passengers nationwide,” states the letter, which will be delivered to every Representative in the U.S. House. “It would also endanger thousands of operating, construction, and manufacturing jobs; initial estimates indicate 10,000 Amtrak employees alone could be furloughed or separated due to lack of funding. Finally, this bill will halt scores of state-sponsored transit and intercity rail infrastructure projects that will benefit tens of millions of Americans.”

We need YOUR help to speak on behalf of America's passenger about the benefits of investment in Amtrak and passenger trains:

Please write or call your U.S. Representative to protest these proposed cuts!

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“This proposed budget does not take the task of governing seriously, ignoring the needs of hundreds of Amtrak-served communities in favor of scoring cheap political points,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of Rail Passengers Association in a public statement. “We stand ready to work with House and Senate leadership to come up with a responsible budget that preserves essential transportation and economic services.”

“These proposed cuts are all the more infuriating coming at the same time as we’re seeing unprecedented interest in adding and upgrading passenger rail service from cities and towns across America,” continued Mathews. “When the Federal Railroad Administration asked for proposals as part of their Corridor Identification Program, there was a massive response from states across the nation—Red and Blue, North and South, Heartland and Coastal. We can’t afford to gut these exciting new programs before they even get started.”

The Senate is scheduled to take up its own version of the FY24 transportation budget on Thursday of next week, and we have every reason to expect a better number for rail and transit. However, it's important that passengers let the U.S. House know that voters are paying attention and that they disapprove of this plan to devastate passenger rail service for tens of millions of Americans!

Act now!