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Trump proposes dramatic cuts to Amtrak operations and capital project grants

17 Mar 2017

USA: In a blueprint for its proposed Financial Year 2018 budget, the Trump administration is planning to cut funding for the Department of Transportation to $16bn, a 13% reduction on that available for FY2017.

Under the proposals, swinging cuts would be made both to passenger train and municipal transport operations and to federal grants for capital investment in both main line and urban rail projects. Richard White, Acting President & CEO of the American Public Transportation Association, said he was ‘surprised and disappointed’ by the planned cutbacks, given President Trump’s concomitant endorsement of significantly increased infrastructure spending.

In what is described as a ‘skinny budget’, the administration is seeking to withdraw all federal funding for Amtrak’s long-distance passenger services.

Claiming these are operations ‘which have long been inefficient’ and incur ‘the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses’, the document says the national passenger railroad corporation should focus its resources on state-funded services and on the 735 km Boston – New York – Washington DC Northeast Corridor, where it makes a surplus.

However, among the projects potentially affected by cuts to infrastructure spending is the planned Gateway programme to provide additional tunnels on the NEC between Newark, New Jersey and New York Penn Station, which Amtrak regards as essential to sustaining its principal inter-city service into the future.

In response, Amtrak President & CEO Wick Moorman said that Amtrak covered 94% of its total network operating costs in 2016, adding that the cuts would eliminate Amtrak operations in 23 of the 46 states it currently serves.

Also proposed for withdrawal are the established New Starts and TIGER funding programmes, which have supported many commuter rail and urban transport projects in recent years. The Trump administration suggests that only those projects which have already secured Full Funding Grant Agreements would proceed; any other investment would need to be underwritten by states, other local authorities or the private sector. APTA says that more than 50 public transport projects in 23 states are now under threat of cancellation.

The FY2018 budget blueprint will now be submitted to Congress and the Senate for further consideration. Initial reports suggest that it is unlikely to pass without significant alteration.

Selected rail projects awaiting Full Funding Grant Agreements
StateCity/RegionProject
AZPhoenixSouth Central LRT Extension
AZTempeTempe Streetcar
CALos AngelesRegional Connector Transit Corridor
CALos AngelesDowntown Streetcar
CALos AngelesWestside Purple Line Extensions
CASacramentoDowntown Riverfront Streetcar
CASan BernardinoRedlands Passenger Rail
CABay AreaPeninsula Corridor Electrification Project
CASan DiegoMid-Coast Corridor Transit
CASan FranciscoThird Street Light Rail Phase 2 - Central Subway
CASan JoseBART Silicon Valley Phase II - Extension
CASan RafaelSMART Larkspur Extension
CASanta AnaSanta Ana/Garden Grove Streetcar
CODenverEagle Commuter Rail
FLFort LauderdaleWave Streetcar
FLOrlandoSunRail Phase II
ILChicagoRed and Purple Line Modernisation
INGary/Michigan CitySouth Shore Line Connectivity Plan
LABaton RougeTramLinkBR Streetcar
MABostonMedford – Cambridge Green Line Extension
MDMarylandNational Capital Purple Line
MNMinneapolisBlue Line Extension
MNMinneapolisSouthwest LRT
NCCharlotteLYNX Blue Line Northeast Extension
NCDurhamDurham-Orange LRT Project
NJ-NYNew York/NewarkHudson Tunnel Gateway Project
NYNew YorkCanarsie Subway Upgrading
NYNew YorkSecond Avenue Subway Phase 2
ORPortlandMilwaukie Light Rail extension
TXDallasCBD Second Light Rail Alignment
TXFort WorthTEX Rail
WASeattleCentre City Streetcar Connector