Happening Now

Congress (Finally) Rejects Radical Cuts to Rail

March 8, 2024

The U.S. Congress is expected to send the Fiscal Year 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) funding bill to the desk of President Joe Biden later today as part of a six-bill package. While the bill is almost six months late, the final T-HUD bill does ultimately reject the dramatic cuts to Amtrak operations proposed by the House GOP last fall. The House passed the bill by an overwhelming margin, with a bipartisan group of 339 yeas to 85 nays. The Senate is expected to pass it later today, avoiding a partial government shutdown.

Amtrak received $2.44 billion in total, a $16 million reduction over last year’s funding levels. The picture is a little more complicated, however, with Congress providing a $93 million increase in funding for Amtrak’s National Network account, offset by a $119 million reduction in the Northeast Corridor account. This was one of several signs appropriators sent that Congress is committed to passenger rail programs being truly national in scope.


BIL - Authorized Rail Funds

FY23 Enacted

FY24 Enacted

Amtrak - NEC



Amtrak - Nat'l Network



Amtrak – Total



FRA Operations



Fed-State Partnership for IPR



CRISI Grants



RR Crossing Elimination Grants



Restoration & Enhancement Grants






Discretionary rail grants did see meaningful cuts—likely a concession to a bipartisan debt ceiling agreement that was premised on across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending, as well as rising housing costs eating into the overall T-HUD allotment. The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program—which funds projects that upgrade intercity passenger and freight rail—was hit particularly hard. On top of the $336 million cuts to the CRISI program, $98 million of the CRISI funding will go to Congressionally Directed Spending (e.g. earmarks), leaving a further reduced pool of funding for this year’s grant applicants.

The Chicago Union Station modernization project received $40 million from the National Network Account. “Chicago Union Station [CUS] is the hub for national network trains,” said appropriators in the accompanying explanatory statement. “Serving millions of long-distance, State-supported, and commuter passengers, CUS connects multiple intercity passenger rail services and transit authorities and is the busiest corridor outside of the NEC. The agreement recognizes the accessibility, safety, and capacity improvements necessary at CUS and directs $40,000,000 for design, acquisition, and construction activities to improve the concourse and related infrastructure at CUS. Concourse and mezzanine improvements will improve safety and accessibility, expand access, and increase capacity. Project work may also include mail platform construction, dynamic signage, widening grade crossings and other passenger safety enhancements and refinements. Amtrak is directed to report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 30 days of enactment of this act on the use or planned use of such funding.”

Long Bridge Project: “On request by the State of Virginia or the District of Columbia for the purpose of the construction of rail and other infrastructure relating to the Long Bridge Project, the Secretary of the Interior may convey to the State or the District of Columbia, as applicable, all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to any portion of the approximately 4.4 acres of National Park Service land depicted as ‘Permanent Impact to NPS Land’ on the Map dated May 15, 2020, that is identified by the State or the District of Columbia.”

Long-Distance Network Protections: As in prior budgets, Congress stipulated that Amtrak is prohibited from using funds in this bill may 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 bill also expresses the sense of Congress that long-distance passenger rail routes and services should be sustained to ensure connectivity throughout the national network.

Corridor Development: Congress stated that Amtrak may use $66 million of its National Network grant for corridor development activities for those corridors which were selected as part of the Interstate Rail Compacts Grant Program.

CRISI Program: The T-HUD bill added language explicitly stating that the CRISI program is eligible to be used on “railroad systems planning (including the preparation of regional intercity passenger rail plans and state rail plans) and railroad project development activities (including railroad project planning, preliminary engineering, design, environmental analysis, feasibility studies, and the development and analysis of project alternatives).”

Previously, these activities were included under broadly formulated eligibilities (e.g. “the preparation of regional rail and corridor service development plans and corresponding environmental analyses”); this language clarifies Congressional intentions for how the program should be administered.

Congressionally Directed Spending*:

  • Metrolink - $1.6 million: Metrolink Rail Crossing lntegration Technology for Safety and Congestion Relief Project
  • Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority - $1.6 million: Northeast Pennsylvania Passenger Rail Restoration Project
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation - $1 million: Bellows Falls Amtrak Station VT Platform Reconstruction
  • Virginia Passenger Rail Authority - $1 million: Ettrick Passenger Rail Station Improvements; Chesterfield, VA

*This list will be updated as our staff reviews the 6,628 earmarks included in the bill.