Happening Now

House GOP Appropriators Reject White House Proposal to Slash Amtrak Service

July 11, 2017

Draft proposal includes funding for Amtrak’s National Network (and some bad policy provisions, too)

Led by the new appropriations chairman, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), House Republicans released a draft FY2018 budget yesterday evening that would boost spending in rail by $360 million over current levels, with the increase targeted towards the enormous state of good repair backlog on the Northeast Corridor. This draft proposal is a huge victory for passenger advocates, who have rallied against a Trump Administration proposal to eliminate long distance trains.

The bill presents a more complicated picture for transit, cutting top-levels by $662 million while preserving a key investment program that has proved crucial for rail transit and commuter rail projects.

Overall, the rail and transit investments were part of a $17.8 billion proposal, a $646 million cut from current levels—but still represents a $1.5 billion boost over the transportation plan proposed by President Donald Trump, which called for the elimination of Amtrak’s long distance trains.

“This is a huge victory for all the passengers who took part in rallies and advocacy campaigns against the White House’s disastrous proposal for the national rail network,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “But we still have more of this battle to fight—this proposal has a long way to go before becoming law, and we will be fully engaged with the entire House and Senate appropriators to boost the investment figures for passenger rail and transit, and eliminate proposals that unfairly target high-speed rail projects.”

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing will mark-up and vote on the bill tonight.

The Numbers

FY2017 Appropriated Levels

FAST Act FY2018 Authorized Levels

White House FY2018 Budget Proposal

House THUD FY2018 Budget Proposal


Amtrak - National Network





Amtrak - NEC





Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Grants





Federal State Partnership For State Of Good Repair





Restoration & Enhancement Grants










  • The draft provides a total of $1.4 billion for Amtrak, of which:
    • $1.1 billion goes to support the national network which, while a slight decrease over current funding, is still a decisive dismissal of the Trump Administration’s call to eliminate the national system; and
    • $328 million is for the Northeast Corridor.
  • The bill also provides funding for two of the three intercity rail grant programs authorized by the FAST Act:
    • $500 million for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, a huge increase over current spending and authorized levels, and which appropriators are explicitly targeting towards the $38 billion maitenance backlog on the Northeast Corridor, and the Gateway Project specifically;
    • $25 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grants, a disappointing reduction of $43 million from the FY2017 enacted level. This newly created program—which received its first funding in April of this year—funds capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work, and research; and
    • No funding for the Restoration & Enhancement Grants, a blow towards the Gulf Coast Restoration project, and a decision which NARP will fight in the Senate appropriations process.
  • The draft provides $11.75 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)—a disappointing $662 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level (but $526 million above the White House request).
    • $9.7 billion will go towards formula grants, consistent with the FAST Act authorization levels;
    • $1.75 billion is included for Capital Investment Grants, and $1 billion for “Full Funding Grant Agreement” (FFGA) transit projects—a huge win for advocates, who have fought the Trump Administration’s proposal to wind down this critical project;
    • $145 million in the draft for Core Capacity projects, and $400 million included for new projects that provide both public transportation and inner-city passenger rail service—a clear indication that this money is targeted towards the Gateway Project, which serves Amtrak, NJ Transit, and the MTA. These programs provide funding for “major transit capital investments – including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail.”

Now, the Bad News

While the bill provides relatively good news on funding levels, it also includes a number of damaging provisions and funding decisions, including

  • Eliminating the popular TIGER Grant program, which helped fund a number of innovative intercity rail, transit, and freight rail projects since its inception;
  • Prohibiting funding for high speed rail in California and the California High Speed Rail Authority;
  • Prohibiting the Surface Transportation Board from taking action regarding the construction of high-speed rail in California unless the Board has jurisdiction over the entire project.

There will be an opportunity to push back against these provisions, on the floor of the House when the bill comes for a vote before the full body, and during the Senate committee process. NARP will continue to use our #Rally4Trains campaign to improve and advance these policies throughout the summer—please consider a special donation to help support us in our work!