Rail Passengers Urge Congress to Maintain Resolve
May 26, 2023
Less than two years after the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering sweeping budgetary cuts. Rail Passengers Association is urging Members of Congress not to waver in the face of a wave of transformative investments.
by Sean Jeans-Gail, VP of Gov't Affairs
Less than two years after the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering sweeping budgetary cuts to transportation programs as part of debt limit negotiations. Rail Passengers Association is asking our members to rally their elected officials in Congress in support of these programs. We stand on the brink of a wave of transformative investments to the U.S. rail network and we can’t afford to waver!
As part of debt limit negotiations, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has proposed a 22 percent cut to discretionary spending. If applied to rail programs, this would risk cuts to existing Amtrak services and bring plans to expand and upgrade passenger rail across the U.S. to a grinding halt.
“It would be a real punch in the teeth if, right as these grants are starting to be announced, we took two giant steps backwards with the passage of an austerity budget,” Rail Passengers Vice President Sean Jeans-Gail told StreetsblogUSA. “We have not heard anything other than top line cuts, but with the understanding the money has to come from somewhere, Amtrak is a target.”
Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews appeared at New Haven Union Station alongside Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) last week to sound the alarm and detail the real world impact of these cuts to Americans.
“Speaker McCarthy’s plan is shortsighted and would cut a broad range of critical programs… [cutting] rail safety inspections at a time when train derailments are wrecking havoc on community safety,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. USDOT estimates a 22 percent cut to the Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would result in 7,500 fewer rail safety inspection days and over 30,000 fewer miles of track inspected annually.
“If we cut Amtrak’s budget with no regard to the communities who depend on it, we will be saving millions but costing our economy billions,” added Mathews. “We must continue these investments in our physical infrastructure to ensure a bright future for this country. The bottom line is: cutting millions while costing billions is bad public policy.”
Mathews outlined tangible benefits to the American passenger that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is producing, including:
-- New equipment for the National Network corridors and the NEC. New trains and locomotives are on order for State corridors and the NEC, and Amtrak is already working with U.S. manufacturers to build the next generation of trainsets for long-distance passsengers.
-- Upgrades to stations across the network. Amtrak is advancing more than a $1 billion worth of station improvement projects in over 200 communities across the country to improve accessibility for all passengers.
-- Addressing decades of underinvestment on the Northeast Corridor with projects that are ready to build. Amtrak is ready to make capital improvements on bridges and tunnels all along the busiest rail corridor in the Western Hemisphere—including some that were built during the Civil War!
-- Good, middle-class American jobs. This investment in rail has already led the private sector to create new manufacturing jobs for American workers, and Amtrak is hiring and training thousands of new employees to help deliver an even safer, more efficient passenger rail system.
-- New and upgraded passenger rail corridors from coast to coast (click here for a full screen experience):
"The Rail Passenger Association's recognition of the essential work done by SMART-TD members aboard Amtrak during this difficult period is appreciated. The Golden Spike Award serves as a testament to the compassion and dedication our conductors, assistant conductors and other workers exhibit constantly through times both ordinary and extraordinary."
Jeremy Ferguson, SMART-TD President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.