Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Transportation’

Trump Wants to Cut Amtrak Long-Distance Train Funding, Trim Public Transportation Spending

March 16, 2017

Here we go again. Another president has taken aim at Amtrak’s federal funding.

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget released by the Trump administration this week calls for eliminating federal funding of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and would impose other steep cuts in transportation spending.

Amtrak would not lose all funding, but the funding it receives would be focused on supporting services within specific regions, specifically the Northeast Corridor and state-funded corridors in the East, Midwest and along the West Coast.

The budget described long-distance trains as inefficient and incurring the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.

Trump is seeking to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion or 13 percent.

If Congress adopts the Trump budget blueprint, DOT will receive $16.2 billion.

Also slated for deep cuts in the budget are Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

Funding of the New Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration will be slashed and limited to projects with existing full funding grant agreements.

In a statement with the budget, Trump said the DOT budget is being revamped to focus on “vital federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects.”

A statement with the budget request said that the blueprint seeks to reduce or end “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.”

In a statement, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman said that Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains offer the only service in 23 of the 46 states that the carrier .

“Eliminating funding for long-distance routes could impact many of the 500 communities served by Amtrak,” Moorman said.

“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. 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 pledged to work with the Trump administration, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Congress to “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.”

As for transit funding, the budget blueprint says that curtailing federal funding leaves funding up to “localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
The American Public Transportation Association issues a statement saying it was surprised and disappointed with the budget details so far.

APTA noted that the administration has been touting a broad plan to spend $1 trillion for infrastructure investment, but “the White House is recommending cutting billions of dollars from existing transportation and public transit infrastructure programs.”

The trade group said the budget cuts would affect projects underway in Kansas City; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, Florida.

The cuts to the TIGER program is aimed at what the budget described as “unauthorized” projects. In January before Trump was inaugurated , DOT had announced that $500 million was available. The TIGER grants were first awarded in 2009.

Among the 2016 grant recipients are San Bernardino County, California., which received $8.6 million for passenger rail service; Mississippi’s 65-mile long Natchez Railway, which received $10 million for rehabilitation and upgrades for five bridges; and Springfield, Illinois, which received $14 million to build two underpasses for proposed high-speed service between St. Louis and Chicago.

Transportation Infrastructure Needs Nearly $1B

January 17, 2017

Transportation infrastructure in the United States needs a $926 billion upgrade, the U.S. Department of Transportation says in a new report.

US DOTOf that, $26.4 million is needed per year to bolster the condition of rail and bus transit systems.

The report noted that transit route miles grew by more than 30 percent between 2002 and 2012

Light rail transit systems grew faster than any other mode of public transportation.

The report was given to Congress as part of DOT’s 2015 Conditions and Performance report, which is submitted on a biennial basis.

The last report, dated 2012, said that rail transit and bus systems needed a $17 billion per year upgrade.

CUS Gets Emerging Projects Agreement

January 14, 2017

The City of Chicago is joining with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Metra and the Regional Transportation Authority to create an emerging projects agreement that they hope will be able to land $1 billion in federal funding to modernize Chicago Union Station.

Chicago Union StationBy creating the EmPA, the DOT will be able to provide technical assistance for obtaining federal credit through the Build America Bureau’s innovative programs.

The redevelopment of Union Station is a public-private partnership that is seeking to rehabilitate the depot for passengers as well as foster commercial developments surrounding the station.

Toledo Amtrak Station to Get Improvements

October 7, 2016

Funding has been approved by the Ohio Rail Development Commission for a renovation of Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Amtrak 4Now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, the station will receive such work as resurfacing the platforms used by Amtrak passengers, new drainage, improved signs and canopy repairs.

The project cost will $1.2 million. The two 1,500-foot station platforms were rebuilt by Amtrak in 2013. They will receive tactile edges for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

ORDC gave the approval last month for spending $938,300 in federal funds for the station work.

Those funds were earmarked in 2009 in a U.S. Department of Transportation appropriation secured to support the development of a federally-compliant development plan of passenger and freight rail service in the Detroit-Toledo-Cleveland corridor.

Work on that project was halted in 2011 when Ohio Gov. John Kasich ended all activities intended to develop a statewide network of 110-mph passenger trains and enhanced rail freight corridors known as the Ohio Hub Plan.

The Toledo Lucas County Port Authority, which owns MLK Plaza, is overseeing the station rehabilitation work and will contribute $250,000 of its own funds.

Other improvements that have been made in the past year at MLK Plaza have included spending $500,000 to add Greyhound station facilities and a 24- hour Subway sandwich shop.

Toledo is served by Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited.

INDOT Open to Continued Operation of Hoosier State

March 12, 2015

The Hoosier State may not be doomed after all. An Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman told Trains magazine that the state would consider continuing its support of the Chicago-Indianapolis train provided that Indiana gets relief from a Federal Railroad Administration decree that in supporting the train the state is a new railroad.

“The state would consider another short-term extension of the existing service if the FRA changed its position,” INDOT spokesman Will Winfield told the magazine. “The state and local communities are working together to get the maximum value for the taxpayer dollars being invested.” INDOT had been negotiating with Amtrak to continue operating the train and with Iowa Pacific Holdings to provide equipment and marketing support.

Then last week INDOT said that Hoosier State would makes its last trips on April 1, citing what INDOT termed the imposition of “burdensome” FRA regulations.

INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning has written to Federal DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to protest the FRA regulations.

In his letter, Browing said the insistence by the FRA that INDOT serve as the principal entity of record for the purposes of ensuring compliance with federal railroad safety requirements had prompted Indiana’s termination notice for the quad-weekly Hoosier State.

“INDOT cannot agree to become a railroad or a railroad carrier as that would require a significantly higher commitment of resources, the assumption of additional liability, and uncertainty over employment practices,” Browning wrote.

Trains noted that Foxx was mayor of Charlotte, N.C., when the FRA tried to impose similar regulations on the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which funds Amtrak service between Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C. After North Carolina threatened to sue, the FRA backed off.

“We are experiencing the same regulatory impediments that the North Carolina Department of Transportation faced in 2008 in its discussions with the FRA,” Browning wrote to Foxx. “As you may recall, the FRA insisted that NCDOT serve as the railroad carrier. That matter was ultimately resolved when NCDOT contested that FRA determination.”

Some observers have described the FRA’s latest ploy to make Indiana a “railroad” because it funds Amtrak service as the opening act in decreeing that all states that fund rail passenger service are “railroads.”

In response to INDOT’s Hoosier State termination notice, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman issued a statement saying that continued operation of the Hoosier State can be done on a month by month basis.

Wingfield told Trains that Amtrak, FRA, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials made an initial inspection of Iowa Pacific equipment on Jan. 27 in Chicago with additional inspections scheduled this month.

Indiana’s fight with the FRA has also begun to attract support from officials with other agencies that fund rail passenger service. Among them is Patricia Quinn, chair of the States for Passenger Rail Coalition Inc., and Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority,  sponsors Amtrak’s Downeaster between Boston and Maine

“It is a sad day when the federal agency which administers federal funding for Amtrak, and who has played such a critical role in providing grants to states to develop and improve intercity passenger rail services, also is determined to require states and intercity service sponsors who contract with Amtrak to become railroads,” Quinn said in a statement. “We trust that this conflict between federal and state governments can be worked out.”