Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak federal funding’

More Details About Bill That Extends FAST Act, Enacts Stopgap Federal Funding for FY2021

September 24, 2020

As reported earlier, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act will extend the Fixing America’s Transportation Act for another year and keep federal funding flowing through Dec. 11.

The bill, which was approved by a large margin in the House and is expected to receive Senate approval and be signed by President Trump, had a few items of substance for intercity rail passenger service but excluded much of what many rail passenger advocates wanted.

By extending the surface transportation authorization for a year, it ensured that Amtrak and public transit, not to mention highway construction funding, would continue.

Amtrak is expected to receive through December a prorated share of what it was appropriated in fiscal year 2020.

That means $138 million for the Northeast Corridor and $256.4 million for the national network.

The bill also eliminates a requirement that Amtrak food and beverage service make a profit.

The so-called “Mica Provision” was a legacy of former House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John Mica who often railed against the cost of Amtrak’s food and beverage service.

However, Amtrak’s plans to reduce the operation of most long-distance trains to three times a week are not expected to be halted by the legislation.

The Rail Passengers Association wrote on its website that passenger rail largely was shut out by the bill, which it described as protecting the status quo.

The legislation also transfers $3.2 billion in general funds to the Mass Transit Account, which ensure the Federal Transit Agency will be able to process grants to transit agencies.

It also halted a $6 billion across-the-board cut of transit formula funds by eliminating the Rostenkowski Test in FY2021.

But RPA noted that extending the existing FAST Act for a year means there will not be a dedicated passenger rail trust fund and that authorizations for Amtrak funding for FY2021 remain at FY2020 levels.

RPA noted that without higher authorizations it would be unlikely that Amtrak would receive the $5 billion in funding for FY2021 that it sought.

That is the amount the passenger carrier said it needed to continue operating most long-distance trains on daily schedules.

Amtrak’s original funding request for FY2021 had been just over $2 billion.

In its post, RPA said the legislation failed to resolve any of the questions raised by Amtrak’s plan for tri-weekly service and made no changes to the service return metrics that Amtrak has established for a return to daily service next year.

The legislation also transfers $10.4 billion in general funds to the Highway Trust Fund and transfers $14 billion in general funds to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

Amtrak’s FY2021 funding will be hammered out later this year, probably in the lame duck session of Congress after the November elections.

Federal Govt. Shutdown Not Affecting Amtrak for Now

December 28, 2018

Although Amtrak continues to operate as usual during the partial government shutdown, the passenger carrier could be adversely affected if the stalemate in Congress lasts for several weeks.

That is because one of the functions of the U.S. Department of Transportation that has been idled by the shutdown is the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Railroad Policy and Development, which is the primary grantor of federal funds to Amtrak.

All employees of this office have been furloughed for the duration of the shutdown.

A length shutdown could endanger the flow of federal funds to Amtrak, although it not clear other than to top Amtrak management how long it would be before that happens.

In a worst case scenario, Amtrak might have to suspend service.

In the meantime, Amtrak employees will continue to be paid for their work and the trains continue to run as scheduled.

USDOT said that 30 percent of its employees, or 20,442 people, are expected to be furloughed.

About 40 percent of the FRA workforce will be idled although staff in the Office of Railroad Safety will work during the shutdown.

They won’t be paid, but are expected to receive retroactive pay once the shutdown ends.

At the Federal Transit Administration 493 of the 558 employees have been idled.

A small staff is being kept on to handle emergencies, but transit and local-government authorities won’t receive any funding until the shutdown ends.

This affects grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, purchase, orders, travel authorizations, or other documents obligating funds would be executed,” DOT said in its shutdown plans.

The Surface Transportation Board said its website saying that “All Surface Transportation Board operations – including this website and agency email – are suspended for the duration of the partial federal government shutdown.”

Senate-confirmed presidential nominees are exempt from the shutdown and continue to be paid.

This includes FRA Administrator Ronald Batory, STB board members Ann Begeman and Deb Miller, and DOT Secretary Elaine Chao among others.