Sort of like the cicada ritual, political wrangling over federal funding for Amtrak has returned. The main difference: cicadas rise above ground to mate every 17 years – the Amtrak appropriations ritual seems to occur every year.
Not sure what some politicians in the House GOP want to accomplish with a proposed 24 percent cut in Amtrak operating and capital funding. Americans want intercity passenger rail – last year 31 million of them rode Amtrak, the most ever. If House members are trying to alienate those riders (Hint: Voters) they should go with their slash-and-burn spending plan just voted out of the House Appropriations Committee today. And it’s a jobs-killer too.
Kudos to Rep. David Price (D-NC), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and their Democratic colleagues for offering an amendment in committee to reverse the cuts. Unfortunately, the amendment failed – I guess the Earth is Flat Caucus is still alive and well in the House.
This makes no sense. Amtrak travels through century-old tunnels and some of its equipment pre-dates the interstate highway system. The company has a plan to upgrade its network and bring much faster service to the East Coast and other regions. And it wants to do all these things in partnership with the private sector (Hint: Jobs).
This Amtrak spending plan proposed by House GOP appropriators dooms Amtrak passengers to another lost decade of slower trains and aging equipment resulting in breakdowns and slowdowns. Amtrak’s CEO Joe Boardman says the proposed House funding puts “all of [Amtrak’s] services at risk.”
Fortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee overseeing transportation has a different plan; thanks to the leadership of Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA), it has a bipartisan spending bill that provides strong funding for Amtrak.
We are hopeful that a bipartisan House will reject these reckless Amtrak cuts and embrace the approach in the Senate. Americans are flocking to Amtrak. Note to politicians: you might want to ask your voters first before you eliminate their trains. And to Amtrak haters: let’s fight this fight and then we’ll catch you again in 2030 when the cicadas rise again.