Dem senator rails against Amtrak funding cut

Dem senator rails against Amtrak funding cut

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump health chief reveals talks with states on Medicaid block grants | New head of FDA faces tough test | Trump officials defends work requirements in court Trump health chief reveals talks with states on Medicaid block grants The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison MORE (D-Pa.) is criticizing House Republicans for moving to cut Amtrak's funding after a recent deadly crash in his home state. 

The cut — about $270 million — was included in a $55 billion funding bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that was approved earlier this month by the House. 

The GOP-sponsored measure contains $1.13 billion for Amtrak, down from the roughly $1.4 billion Congress appropriated for 2015. 

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Casey said in a letter to Senate appropriators that the House's proposed Amtrak budget cut "would hinder infrastructure improvements on the Northeast corridor (NEC), which serves over 11 million passengers per year, and the Keystone Corridor, which serves over 1.4 million passengers a year. 

"Amtrak rail service along these corridors is essential to the long-term economic competitiveness of the region and provides travelers with a reliable mode of transportation," he wrote. "The recovery of our nation’s economy relies on the continued support of passenger rail. In Pennsylvania alone, Amtrak employs over 2,700 individuals and spends over $230 million a year on procurement contracts in the state. The House Appropriations bill funding level would threaten these jobs and harm the regional economy." 

The proposed Amtrak funding cut was approved by a House committee last month a day after one of the company's trains derailed near Philadelphia in a crash that killed eight passengers. 

The move was heavily criticized by Democrats and safety advocates. Casey said Friday that a Senate proposal to give Amtrak $1.4 billion per year is a better course of action for lawmakers to take after May's crash. 

"Each year, Amtrak has been consistently exceeding ridership records and growing its customer base," he wrote. "This investment will provide funding to maintain and improve infrastructure to continue these gains. In addition, this funding level would ensure we make the investments needed to not only improve and grow our current rail infrastructure, but also enhance safety programs, like Positive Train Control, that would reduce train incidents and save lives." 

The lower chamber had previously passed a $7.8 billion bill for Amtrak that was known as the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act.

The Senate has begun moving a $9 billion version of the Amtrak funding measure that would give Amtrak a slight increase from the present level of federal spending. 

The rail service's last appropriations bill in 2008 provided about $1.3 billion to the company for a combination of operations, construction and debt service. 

By comparison, the House's earlier Amtrak measure provides about $982 million per year for Amtrak's national network and another $470 million annually for its popular Northeast U.S. routes.

The House bill, which would also expire in 2019, appropriates another $300 million per year for construction on Amtrak routes in the rest of country and about $24 million per year for the company's inspector general. 

Amtrak has historically received about $1 billion per year from the government for operations and construction projects since its inception in 1971. The funding has become controversial in recent years, however, as some Republicans have pushed to eliminate the subsidies and privatize Amtrak's most profitable routes.