Rail Coalition Letter to the US House on the FY24 THUD Bill
July 15, 2023
A coalition letter on behalf of America’s passengers and transportation workers asking Congress to reject radical budget cuts to rail and transit programs and advance the growth-oriented approach authorized by Congress in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act
We are writing to you on behalf of America’s passengers and transportation workers to ask you to reject the radical budget cuts to rail and transit programs across the nation included in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies’ Fiscal Year 2024 bill.
These cuts would destabilize operations on the nation’s busiest rail corridor and threaten the elimination of Amtrak service for hundreds of cities and small towns across the U.S., impacting as many as 20 million passengers nationwide. It would also endanger tens of thousands of operating, construction, and manufacturing jobs; initial estimates indicate 10,000 Amtrak employees alone could be furloughed or separated due to lack of funding. Finally, this bill would halt scores of state-sponsored transit and intercity rail infrastructure projects that will benefit tens of millions of Americans.
Instead, we ask that you reaffirm the growth-oriented approach authorized by Congress in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) by:
- Fully funding Amtrak’s National Network and Northeast Corridor operating grant at the levels authorized in the IIJA;
- Fully funding important rail grant programs—including the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program and the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program—at the levels authorized in the IIJA; and
- Fully funding the Fixed-Guideway Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program at levels authorized in the IIJA.
An Essential Economic Connection: The Northeast Corridor (NEC) serves approximately 2,200 Amtrak, commuter and freight trains each day, making it one of the busiest transportation corridors in the world. It carries 260 million annual passenger trips (pre-COVID-19), contributing $50 billion to the U.S. GDP each year.
The House’s FY24 THUD bill would slash the NEC’s budget by 92 percent compared to FY23. This threatens service not just for Amtrak passengers, but also the riders that rely on service provided by the 8 commuter railroads that operate over the NEC (the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Shore Line East, Metro-North Railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, MARC and Virginia Railway Express).
Serving America’s Heartland: Amtrak’s National Network, with its 15 long-distance routes, is an essential transportation service to the 40 percent of the nation’s small and rural communities that it serves, establishing a vital link between Small Town and Big City America. These long-distance routes also connect with 28 state-supported Amtrak routes, carrying approximately half of all Amtrak passengers.
Intercity rail plays an important role in these rural communities; almost one-fifth of Amtrak’s passengers travel to or from a rural station with no access to air service. As private-sector airlines continue to abandon smaller cities, Amtrak often remains the only connection to and from these places.
The Need for a Growing Network: There has been a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from local governments in response to the Corridor Identification Program established by the IIJA. States such as Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and the Commonwealth of Virginia have all submitted applications for this IIJA passenger rail development program. Congress shouldn’t pull the rug out from the local governments that have invested their time and committed resources to passenger rail expansion.
The return on this infrastructure investment will benefit Americans of all stripes. A study by the Rail Passengers Association quantified the economic benefits of introducing daily train service on the route of the Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle between California and Illinois (up from the current three-times-per-week). This simple step is among several Amtrak is proposing in the first round of IIJA-enabled service improvements, and economic-benefits modeling suggests introducing daily service could generate as much as $2.4 billion over 10 years in visitor spending in hotels, restaurants, and retail, avoided road maintenance, and supported jobs — $144 million each year in Texas alone, and some $239 million each year to the eight states served. That’s at least four times as much the annual cost of operating this service.
Revitalizing American Manufacturing: IIJA funding has allowed Amtrak to begin the process of replacing its 20th century railcar and locomotive fleet on the long-distance, State supported, and NEC business lines. Amtrak continues to roll out new state-owned Siemens Venture trainsets, refresh current long-distance equipment, and advance the procurement of the next-generation long-distance trainsets.
The private sector has already responded to this increased investment in rail and transit. Siemens announced in March 2023 that it is building a $220 million advanced manufacturing and rail services facility in Lexington, NC in response to increased U.S. rail investment. The facility will begin production in 2024, create more than 500 new jobs by 2028, and grow the state’s economy by $1.6 billion over 12 years.
A Safer, More Efficient Transportation Network: Rail is the safest, most energy efficient surface transportation mode. When measured by fatalities per billion passenger miles, riding intercity passenger trains is more than 10 times safer than riding in a passenger car on average. Moving passengers from highways to trains will provide an alternative to over-congested highways and help reduce the roughly 42,700 deaths that occurred on U.S. highways last year.
Additionally, rail transit is 70 percent more energy efficient per passenger-mile than cars and 74% more energy efficient than light trucks. Even with an aging fleet, U.S. intercity rail is 53 percent more energy efficient per passenger-mile than light trucks and 45 percent more energy efficient than automobiles.
For these reasons, and many more, we are asking that you reject the disastrous transportation cuts included in the House’s FY24 THUD bill, which will have profoundly harmful economic fallout nationally, regionally, and locally.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
All Aboard Northwest
All Aboard Ohio
All Aboard Washington
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
Colorado Rail Passenger Association
Empire State Passengers Association
High Speed Rail Alliance
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)
Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers
National Conference of Firemen & Oilers 32BJ/SEIU
Rail Passengers Association
Scranton Rail Restoration Coalition
SENER Engineering and Systems Inc.
SMART – Transportation Division
Southern Environmental Law Center
Texas Rail Advocates
Transport Workers Union
Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM)
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
U.S. High Speed Rail Association
U.S. High Speed Rail Coalition
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
Virginians for High Speed Rail
Virginia Transit Association
Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail
The Honorable Kay Granger
The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
The Honorable Tom Cole
The Honorable Mike Quigley
The Honorable Sam Graves
The Honorable Rick Larsen
The Honorable Troy Nehls
The Honorable Donald Payne, Jr.
The Honorable Rick Crawford
The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
"I’m so proud that we came together in bipartisan fashion in the Senate to keep the Southwest Chief chugging along, and I’m grateful for this recognition from the Rail Passengers Association. This victory is a testament to what we can accomplish when we reach across the aisle and work together to advance our common interests."
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
April 2, 2019, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his work to protect the Southwest Chief