Posts Tagged ‘federal fiscal year 2021’

Amtrak Did Well in FY2021 Budget

December 23, 2020

Public Transit and Amtrak did reasonably well in the legislation approved by Congress this week to fund the federal government through the end of the 2021 fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The $1.4 billion omnibus budget bill include $15.5 billion for public transportation and passenger rail, a $10 million increase from the enacted levels of FY 2020.

The funding breaks down to $2.8 billion for passenger rail and $13 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.

Amtrak’s FY2021 funding included $700 million for operating and capital projects in the Northeast Corridor.

Of that $75 million is earmarked for bringing Amtrak-served facilities and stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The national network received $1.3 billion for long-distance and state-supported trains, including $50 million for the latter.

Among the policy riders attached to the budget bill was one stating it is the sense of Congress that long-distance passenger rail routes provide much-needed transportation access, particularly in rural areas.

The long-distance passenger rail routes and services should be sustained to ensure connectivity throughout the national network.

Another rider sets aside $100 million to support the acquisition of new single-level passenger equipment in proportion to the use of this equipment for Amtrak’s NEC, state-supported, and long-distance services.

The bill “reminds” Amtrak that Congress removed the prohibition on the use of Federal funds to cover any operating loss associated with providing food and beverage service on Amtrak routes.

That action was part of a one-year extension of federal surface transportation authorization legislation approved last September.

Amtrak also was directed to “continually review and evaluate the locations and trains that may be eligible for private car moves, update the guidelines for private cars on Amtrak if additional locations or trains meet Amtrak’s criteria, and notify private car owners of these changes.”

In other budget provisions, the Consolidated Rail Improvement and Safety Improvements program received $375 million for rail projects of which at least $75 million is to be used for projects that support the development of new intercity passenger rail routes including alignments for existing routes.

Not less than $25 million is to be used for capital projects and engineering solutions targeting trespassing.

The Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair program received $200 million to repair, replace, or rehabilitate qualified railroad assets to reduce the state of good repair backlog and improve intercity passenger rail performance.

The Restoration and Enhancement Grants program received $4.7 million for initiating, restoring, or enhancing intercity passenger rail transportation.

Of the $13 billion appropriated for the Federal Transit Administration, $2 billion is to be used for for Capital Investment Grants and $516 million for Transit Infrastructure Grants.

The bill reestablishes an 80/20 cost share split between the federal government and state government for the CIG program.

Amtrak Warns of More Job, Service Cuts if it Doesn’t Get More Federal Funding in FY2021

October 10, 2020

Amtrak is again warning of service cuts and job furloughs unless Congress gives it more money.

The passenger carrier has notified lawmakers that it needs $4.857 billion for fiscal year 2021 on top of its earlier FY2021 budget request pf $2.040 billion that it made last February.

Amtrak President William Flynn said in a letter to congressional leaders that Amtrak has suffered a “dramatic loss in ridership and revenue” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the second time the carrier has sought additional funding above its initial FY2021 funding request.

In late May Amtrak sought $1.475 billion in additional funding, which increased its FY2021 budget request to $3.515 billion.

“Since then, we have seen that our ridership is not returning as quickly or at the levels that we had hoped for,” Flynn said.

The letter did not identify specific trains that may be at risk of suspension and/or discontinuance, but suggested that cuts would fall on state-supported corridor services and Northeast Corridor trains.

It also warned that 2,400 jobs would be pared if Amtrak’s federal funding does not increase. Capital spending projects in the works would also have to be deferred.

An appendix to the letter said state corridor service could be reduced by up to 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels because state payments will increase to unaffordable levels.

Amtrak has contracts with 20 partners in 17 states in support of 28 state-supported routes.

Flynn’s letter also listed $5.193 billion in projects that could be part of economy stimulus programs, including major infrastructure projects, new rolling stock, and station improvements. These projects could generate more than 75,000 jobs.

Amtrak is currently receiving federal funding under a continuing resolution approved by Congress during the last week of September that funds the federal government at FY2020 levels through Dec. 11.

Flynn’s letter expressed concern that Congress may opt later this year to continue to fund the passenger carrier at that level.

 “If the [FY2020{ funding level is extended beyond Dec. 11, 2020, and supplemental funding has not yet been provided we will be unable to avoid more drastic impacts that could have long-lasting effects on our Northeast Corridor infrastructure and the national rail system,” Flynn wrote.

Of the $4.857 billion that Amtrak is seeking, $3.227 billion would go to Amtrak’s services and capital program with $1.704 billion for the Northeast Corridor, $413 million for the Amtrak share of state-supported services, and $1.110 billion for long-distance service.

The remaining $1.63 billion would support Amtrak RRIF/debt payments, state and commuter partner payments that are payable to Amtrak under Sections 209 and 212, the costs of any congressional workforce or service directives, and added revenue risk beyond our current projection.

In an unrelated development, the Senate Commerce Committee delayed a hearing that it was scheduled to hold this week to examine Amtrak’s cuts in service frequencies for its long-distance trains.

The hearing has been sought by Senator Jon Tester of Montana to review planned service cuts of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder and other long-distance trains that are being implemented this month.

The Senate is in recess until Oct. 19 due to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Washington.

House Passes Amtrak Funding in Budget Bill

August 1, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a federal fiscal year budget package that includes $10 billion in funding for Amtrak and $24 billion for public transit.

The legislation includes language that prohibits Amtrak from further furloughs of its work force, directs the intercity rail passenger carrier to maintain daily frequency of service on routes that have it now, and includes a mandate that passengers and employees wear masks on trains, planes, and large transit systems.

The budget bill was approved on a vote of 217 to 197 and now goes to the Senate, which has yet to introduce draft appropriations bills for the next fiscal year which begins on Oct. 1.

The Senate is still trying to approve a COVID-19 pandemic relief package that includes $10 billion in emergency aid for airports but no emergency funding for Amtrak or public transportation.

If the Senate fails to approve an FY2021 budget bill Congress may keep the federal government operating by passing one or more continuing resolutions.

It is unclear at this point what that would mean for Amtrak’s plans to reduce the operation of most long distance passengers trains to tri-weekly on Oct. 1.