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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Trump budget ends funding of Amtrak long-distance trains, TIGER grants


President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget blueprint would cut the U.S. Department of Transportation's budget by $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, to $16.2 billion, according to the document.

Regarding rail, the budget calls for terminating federal support for Amtrak's long-distance service; eliminating the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program; and limiting funding for the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Program (New Starts) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only.

The budget request streamlines the department to focus on "vital federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects," the document states.

"The budget reduces or eliminates programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by states, localities or the private sector," it says.

For Amtrak, the budget would restructure and reduce federal subsidies to the national intercity passenger railroad to focus on services within regions. It eliminates federal support for long-distance Amtrak services, "which long have been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak's operating losses," according to the document.

"This would allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its state-supported and Northeast Corridor train services," it states.

Amtrak's 15 long-distance trains offer the only Amtrak service in 23 of the 46 states the railroad serves. Eliminating funding for long-distance routes could impact many of the 500 communities served by Amtrak, the railroad's President and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman said in a prepared statement.

"These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and state-supported services," said Moorman. "Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently  — we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 — but these services all require federal investment."

Moorman said Amtrak officials look forward to ensuring that Trump, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Congress "understand the value of Amtrak's long-distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation's transportation system."