Senate Republicans and Democrats Agree To Double Amtrak’s Funding
If a bill has the support of both Republicans and Democrats, be concerned. That’s certainly the case with a bipartisan transportation bill moving through the Senate that would double the federal subsidies given to Amtrak.
Last week, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted 25 to 3 to advance a $78 billion surface transportation bill that gives the government-owned passenger rail service $19 billion over five years, for an average of $3.8 billion per year.
Of that, $6.5 billion would go to the higher-ridership Northeast Corridor that runs from Washington, D.C., up to Boston. The other $12.5 billion in funding would go to Amtrak’s network of routes that run across the rest of the country.
This funding is notably less than a few other transportation proposals currently on the table. Amtrak itself has put out a “corridor vision” that calls for $75 billion in funding over the next 15 years (or $25 billion over the next five).
That’s less than what some House Democrats want to shower on the company. Earlier this month, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a surface transportation bill that included $32 billion over five years for Amtrak—triple its current funding.
President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, meanwhile, would devote $80 billion over eight years to the company, or $50 billion over the next five.
All of these proposals would boost Amtrak’s funding above the emergency levels it received during the pandemic. Plummeting ridership prompted Congress to include an additional $1 billion for Amtrak in the CARES Act passed in March 2020. The American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, gave it another $1.69 billion.
The fact that members of both parties were able to agree on these massive spending increases is evidence that the system still works, according to Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.), the committee’s top Republican.
“It is essential that we work to find common ground to make sure our extensive rail network keeps pace with a growing economy, that trucks are able to get goods to port and that rural and disadvantaged communities are given ade
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