Posts Tagged ‘FY2021 budget’

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.

Budget Proposal Slashes Amtrak by More than 50%

February 13, 2020

The Trump administration this week released its federal fiscal year budget proposal and to no one’s surprise it has proposed slashing Amtrak funding by more than half.

The budget proposal also recommends funding cuts to rail-related transportation of nearly $900 million when compared with the last two budget cycles, most of which would be achieved by appropriating less money for federal agencies that oversee rail transportation activities.

For Amtrak, the administration has proposed cutting spending on the Northeast Corridor from $700 million to $325 million.

Support for the long-distance service would fall from $1.3 billion to $611 million with those trains being phased over in the next few years.

The budget document released by the U.S. Department of Transportation calls for funding of a vaguely defined account that is meant to transition long-distance routes into corridor services of between 100 to 500 miles that would be funded in part by state and local governments.

These grants would be known as “National Network Transformation Grants — Long Distance Routes” and would receive $550 million.

Amtrak’s overall funding will decline from $2 billion in the 2020 budget to $1.5 billion in 2021.

The focus on corridor services would be in line with the vision for Amtrak that the carrier’s president, Richard Anderson, and its senior executive vice president, Stephen Gardner, have been talking up for more than a year.

Indeed the DOT budget document uses language similar to that used by Anderson and Gardner in saying that long-distance routes have outlived their usefulness and Amtrak needs to transform into a corridor-oriented operation linking urban centers.

“Long-distance routes continually underperform, suffering from low ridership and large operating losses of roughly half a billion dollars annually,” the DOT budget document states. “Amtrak trains inadequately serve many rural markets while not serving many growing metropolitan areas at all.”

This of course raises the question of whether DOT is parroting Anderson and Gardner or whether the Amtrak executives are mouthing what DOT has told them to say.

DOT said it would release later this year details about the long-distance route transformation program as part of its recommendation for a re-authorization of the FAST Act.

The administration’s budget proposal also recommends $13.2 billion for public transportation, a $303 million increase from the FY2020 enacted level, but would reduce passenger-rail grant programs by $712 million for a total of $1.8 billion.

The budget proposes a 10-year, $810 billion plan for surface transportation reauthorization to replace the FAST Act, which expires Sept. 30. That is $75 billion above the current authorized level.

Public transit would receive $155.4 billion over the next 10 years. The administration stated that it would submit a comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization proposal in the coming months, APTA officials said in a legislative update.

The Federal Railroad Administration would receive just under $2 billion compared with nearly $2.8 billion budgeted in 2020.