ICYMI: Stakeholders and Organizations Express Safety and Economic Concerns with the House Republicans’ Transportation Funding Plans

July 17, 2023
Press Release

WASHINGTON — House Republicans’ 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies funding bill makes traveling less safe, ignores low-income families living in hazardous conditions, and threatens to shutter our economy. Numerous stakeholders and organizations have expressed their concerns with the House Republicans’ funding plans, including:

Amtrak

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM)

All Aboard Ohio

Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

All Aboard Washington

National Conference of Firemen & Oilers 32BJ/SEIU

U.S. High Speed Rail Association

American Public Transportation Association

Rail Passengers Association

U.S. High Speed Rail Coalition

Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen

Scranton Rail Restoration Coalition

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America

Colorado Rail Passenger Association

SENER Engineering and Systems Inc.

Virginians for High Speed Rail

Empire State Passengers Association

SMART – Transportation Division

Virginia Transit Association

High Speed Rail Alliance

Texas Rail Advocates

Western Pennsylvania for Passenger Rail

A selection of those concerns is included below.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to consider this bill in full committee tomorrow.

Amtrak released the following statement:

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner

The funding levels proposed in the House FY24 transportation appropriations bill for Amtrak and FRA rail programs will stop the advancement of passenger rail in its tracks. If the proposed levels become law, Amtrak will have to radically reduce or suspend service on various routes across the nation, impacting our State Supported, Long Distance and Northeast Corridor services.

The proposed amount – a 64% cut from Amtrak’s FY23 annual appropriation and 76% lower than the levels authorized by Congress – would dismantle vital transportation links across America and negatively impact jobs and the American economy. Additionally, with almost no funding for capital expenses, Amtrak would be forced to immediately reduce vital state of good repair work needed to reliably operate our network and defer many of the major modernization projects that were funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) just over a year and a half ago. Amtrak’s IIJA funds can primarily be used only for major infrastructure projects and equipment procurements, not the basic maintenance, operations, and routine day-to-day expenditures supported by our annual appropriations.

“At a time when Amtrak has nearly returned to pre-pandemic ridership levels and is busy generating increased revenue, creating a historic number of jobs, and investing in the American economy, these proposed cuts would harm the country and take us in the wrong direction…

The Rail Passengers Association and 20+ additional organizations stated the following (excerpt):

Rail Passengers Association and 20+ Organizations

“These cuts would destabilize operations on the nation’s busiest rail corridor and threaten the elimination of Amtrak service for hundreds of cities and small towns across the U.S., impacting as many as 20 million passengers nationwide. It would also endanger tens of thousands of operating, construction, and manufacturing jobs; initial estimates indicate 10,000 Amtrak employees alone could be furloughed or separated due to lack of funding. Finally, this bill would halt scores of state-sponsored transit and intercity rail infrastructure projects that will benefit tens of millions of Americans…

An Essential Economic Connection: The Northeast Corridor (NEC) serves approximately 2,200 Amtrak, commuter and freight trains each day, making it one of the busiest transportation corridors in the world. It carries 260 million annual passenger trips (pre-COVID-19), contributing $50 billion to the U.S. GDP each year. 

“The House’s FY24 THUD bill would slash the NEC’s budget by 92 percent compared to FY23. This threatens service not just for Amtrak passengers, but also the riders that rely on service provided by the 8 commuter railroads that operate over the NEC (the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Shore Line East, Metro-North Railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, MARC and Virginia Railway Express) …”

The Rail Passengers Association also released the following statement (excerpt):

Rail Passengers Association President and CEO Jim Mathews

The funding levels outlined in this bill would require deep cuts to train service across the entire network—on the Northeast Corridor, State-Supported and Long Distance services—and threaten the complete elimination of some routes. This proposed budget does not take the task of governing seriously, ignoring the needs of hundreds of Amtrak-served communities in favor of scoring cheap political points…”

These proposed cuts are all the more infuriating coming at the same time as we’re seeing unprecedented interest in adding and upgrading passenger rail service from cities and towns across America. When the Federal Railroad Administration asked for proposals as part of their Corridor Identification Program, there was a massive response from states across the nation—Red and Blue, North and South, Heartland and Coastal. We can’t afford to gut these exciting new programs before they even get started.”

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, a coalition of 37 member unions, released the following statement (excerpt):

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO President and Secretary-Treasurer Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger

The proposed fiscal year 2024 THUD spending bill would be disastrous for America’s transportation systems, passengers, and workers. As the nation’s largest transportation labor federation, we cannot ignore the likely loss of thousands of construction, operations, and maintenance sector jobs. 

“The Republicans’ devastating funding cuts to public transit, passenger rail, federal grant programs, and other critical infrastructure projects would significantly hamstring the progress of the historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

“In 2021, Congress made a promise to the American people that we would finally get our transportation infrastructure back on track after decades of neglect. Now, Republican leadership is pulling the rug out from under their own constituents who will suffer the economic and quality-of-life impacts of these cuts

“At the precise time that we are attempting the largest-ever expansion of our national passenger rail network, the 64% cut to Amtrak’s funding would shrink their budget to the level it was a decade ago and lead to significant layoffs and service cuts…

Other cuts, including zeroing out the RAISE and MEGA grant programs, would slash billions from construction projects in urban and rural communities alike. Gutting these programs would halt the creation of good union jobs in the communities where those projects are built…”

The Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM) stated the following (excerpts):

Transportation Communications Union

The proposed funding levels from House Republican lawmakers would be completely devastating to railroad workers, rail safety, and railroad retirees. The bills propose to gut Amtrak and transit agencies, as well as the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), among others.

“The House Republican funding proposals cut far deeper than the recently-enacted bipartisan budget agreement that was negotiated between President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy. That agreement was the product of intense talks that saw our country nearly default on its debt. Unfortunately, House Republicans have chosen to abandon their own agreement and propose far deeper cuts instead.”

Transportation Communications Union National President Artie Maratea

These proposed funding levels are a slap in the face to railroaders – there’s no other way to put it. Our members and the American people expect our government to be responsive to their needs. But if these funding levels are enacted, it’s hard to imagine government functioning at all. The bills leave little unscathed – rail safety, Amtrak, transit/commuter, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), and the NLRB all are deeply gutted by this proposal.”

Transportation Communications Union National Vice President Greg Kocialski

It’s hard to imagine a worse funding scenario if you’re an Amtrak worker. Cuts of this magnitude would put thousands of Amtrak workers on the unemployment lines… So, instead of building NexGen passenger rail, this budget proposal puts people on the street.”

The Texas Rail Advocates stated the following (excerpt):

Texas Rail Advocates

U.S. House appropriators want to cut Amtrak budget by 64%, just when expansion in Texas is on the horizon

“The passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) has introduced a new era for America’s rail passengers and various rail programs, launching several important new passenger rail programs and providing guaranteed multi-year federal funding to upgrade and expand the national passenger rail network.

Now that we have seen the House Committee on Appropriation's draft FY24 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) legislation, that could all be in jeopardy.  This bill would cut Amtrak’s budget 64% from what was enacted last year and 76% below what Congress authorized in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA), threatening an essential transportation service that tens of millions of Americans depend upon and killing the passenger rail renaissance launched by the IIJA before it has a chance to get started…

More information on the 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies funding bill is here.

 

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118th Congress