By Railfan & Railroad Staff
WASHINGTON D.C. — The House Appropriations Committee is calling for the federal government to hand out $26 billion in grants to Amtrak and public transit agencies impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As part of the proposal announced earlier this week, Amtrak would get $2.05 billion in Fiscal 2021. However, Amtrak could not use the money to “discontinue, reduce the frequency of, suspend, or substantially alter the route of rail service on any portion of such route operated in Fiscal Year 2018.”
The Rail Passenger Association hailed the proposal as a win for train riders, although it’s unclear if it will actually come to fruition. “Congress is really listening to Americans and recognizing the critical role passenger rail and public transit have always played in economic resilience,” said Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews. “The House has already passed the authorizers’ ambitious policy framework for passenger rail in H.R. 2, the INVEST In America Act, and now House lawmakers are stepping up with a Fiscal 2021 money bill to make sure that Amtrak, commuter railroads and state agencies have the funds they need to keep America moving.”
The pandemic has had a major impact on Amtrak and transit operators in recent months. In May, a coalition of transit agencies said they needed at least $33 billion to survive plummeting ridership and revenues, on top of the $25 billion included in the pandemic relief bill in April. In June, Amtrak announced that it plans on reducing most of its long-distance train services to three days a week starting Oct. 1. due to budget issues.