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Rail News: Amtrak

Obama administration proposes $77 billion USDOT budget for FY2014


Yesterday, the Obama administration unveiled a $3.77 trillion fiscal-year 2014 budget proposal that includes $77 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, a 6 percent increase compared with the FY2012 enacted levels. Of that amount, $50 billion would be allocated for "immediate" transportation investments designed to improve transit, passenger-rail, highway and aviation systems.

The spending plan includes $10.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, including $8.6 billion in grant funds to support capital investment, state of good repair, safety, planning, rolling stock purchases and maintenance, facility upgrades and construction, and operating expenses. Another $2 billion would be allocated for capital projects designed to add and expand transit service.

"This proposal fully funds MAP-21 and demonstrates the Administration's commitment to public transportation and the role it plays in getting people to work and putting people to work," said American Public Transportation Association President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy in a prepared statement.

The budget proposal also includes $11.6 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Of that, $6.4 billion would be allocated to establish a National High Performance Rail System program. The program is part of a five-year, $40 billion reauthorization proposal to support the existing intercity passenger-rail system, a rail service improvement program, and research, development and technology. It would be funded through a proposed Rail Account included in the Transportation Trust Fund.

The Administration is requesting $2.7 billion for Amtrak, including: $675 million for Northeast Corridor infrastructure and equipment repair needs; $300 million to help states transition to new funding requirements for Amtrak service, as required by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act; $800 million for long-distance route operations; and $925 million to improve the efficiency of Amtrak's "backbone" rail facilities and operations, as well as implement positive train control (PTC) on Amtrak routes and bring stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The FRA's portion of the budget proposal also includes $3.25 billion to develop new "high-performance" passenger-rail networks and fund PTC implementation for commuter railroads; $150 million to address major bottlenecks and congestion issues that reduce freight- and passenger-rail reliability on shared infrastructure; $190 million to upgrade freight-rail facilities and add capacity; and $70 million for planning work that would guide future investments in the freight- and passenger-rail systems.

The budget does not include funds for freight railroads to implement PTC. In addition, it cuts funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act — which some freight railroads use to retrofit locomotives — by 70 percent, from $20 million in FY2013 to $6 million in FY2014.

"This proposed budget virtually eliminates a valuable and proven means of emissions reductions to many non-attainment areas," said Diesel Technology Forum Executive Director Allen Schaeffer.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) acknowledged the Administration's continued commitment to infrastructure investment, but expressed concern about how those investments will be funded.

"One of the most essential questions in this debate is, 'How do we finance infrastructure maintenance and improvements without adding to this debt?'" he said in a statement. "I remain committed to working with everyone … to continue reforming programs, focus our resources where they are most needed and build consensus on how to responsibly meet the needs of our nation's aging infrastructure."