The scene of the Amtrak train derailment on December 18, 2017 in DuPont, Washington.
Stephen Brashear—Getty Images
By Alana Abramson
February 12, 2018

President Trump unveiled his budget for fiscal year 2019 on Monday, along with a 55 page infrastructure plan. And despite his calls to increase railroad safety, his budget proposes cutting federal grants to Amtrak by over 50%.

Under the budget, the federal subsidies to Amtrak would be cut by half, from $1.495 billion that was given in 2017 to $738 million for FY 2019, which would begin on October 1. While the infrastructure plan does not mention Amtrak specifically, it does propose $200 billion in federal investments in infrastructure—including railroads—but its plan is centered on states taking the lead.

“Amtrak continues to rely exclusively on Federal subsidies to operate long distance train routes, which have large operating losses and serve a small number of passengers,” the budget states. “The Budget proposes reforms to Amtrak to improve efficiencies in long distance services and reduce reliance of the Federal Government.”

The budget proposal say states should chip in to help subsidize the long distance routes. But the proposal comes at a perilous time for the railroad; Amtrak trains have been involved in three fatal crashes since December, with crashes in Washington,Virginia, and South Carolina.

Investigators said the crash in South Carolina, which left two dead and more than 100 injured, could have been prevented with positive train control, a system that knows all train locations and switch positions to prevent crashes.

Amtrak did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The budget, however, is unlikely to become law. Trump and his administration are merely laying out their priorities for Congress, which will subsequently draft its own blueprint for Fiscal Year 2019.

 

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