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Trump regime declares war on rail: Budget would eviscerate Amtrak, light rail funding

Passenger rail service in the United States of America is now officially under an unprecedented assault following the release of neofascist Donald Trump’s regime’s “budget blueprint”, which proposes gutting most of what’s left of Amtrak’s national network of intercity rail routes and yanking away funding promised to regions like ours for the expansion of badly needed high capacity transit systems.

The ultra-right wing Heritage Foundation is believed to have had a major hand in the crafting of the “budget blueprint”, as it resembles their own sick and twisted “vision” for the future. Amtrak would be extremely hard hit and reduced to a regional provider of rail service, with all cross-country routes eliminated.

“It’s ironic that Trump’s first budget proposal undermines the very communities whose economic hardship and sense of isolation from the rest of the country helped propel him into office,” noted National Association of Railroad Passengers President Jim Mathews in a statement blasting the Trump regime’s plans.

“These working class communities—many of them located in the Midwest and the South—were tired of being treated like ‘flyover country.’ But by proposing the elimination of Amtrak’s long distance trains, the Trump Administration does them one worse, cutting a vital service that connects these small town economies to the rest of the U.S. These hard working, small town Americans don’t have airports or Uber to turn to; they depend on these trains.”

NARP has assessed that the Trump regime’s budget would:

  • Eliminate all federal funding for Amtrak’s national network trains, which provides the only Amtrak service to 23 states, and the only nearby Amtrak service for 144.6 million Americans;
  • Eliminate $499 million from the TIGER grant program, a highly successful program that invests in passenger rail and transit projects of national significance;
  • Eliminate of $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration’s “New Starts” Capital Investment Program, which is crucial to launching new transit, commuter rail, and light-rail projects.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which provides service from Seattle to Chicago, serving communities in Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, would be among the routes that would be eliminated. The Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s most beloved and scenic routes. It passes by many natural wonders, including Glacier National Park in Montana (perhaps someday to be renamed The Park Formerly Known as Glacier due to climate damage).

Meanwhile, agencies like Sound Transit stands to lose a great deal of money too. ST has been counting on receiving federal dollars to expand Link light rail service.

“It’s distressing that the new administration seeks to slash funding for the very type of infrastructure investments the president has consistently supported,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “People in the region just voted for $54 billion to help fund mass transit with the assumption we’d continue receiving federal support. Now we’re being told that sensible transit projects are not a priority. We’ll work hard with our congressional delegation to ensure transit remains a top priority for federal transportation funding.”

“The move to zero-out federal funding for regional infrastructure projects is a body blow,” said a grim Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff, who served as Federal Transit Administrator during a portion of the Obama years.

“Shortly after joining Sound Transit, I reduced the agency’s federal grant assumptions to levels that seemed more reasonable to sustain over the long term. We did not anticipate a scenario in which the federal government would completely walk away from the table after decades of partnership with cities across America.”

It is worth remembering that Link light rail would not exist at all today had the administration of George W. Bush and the 2003-2004 Republican Congress not agreed to provide funding to Sound Transit to construct the initial line. Or that the extremely popular University Link extension was paid for mostly with federal dollars.

It’s hard to find words to describe the Trump regime’s budget blueprint.

Immoral, cruel, unconscionable, boneheaded, idiotic… all of those words are applicable, and yet somehow don’t seem expressive enough.

This budget proposal isn’t merely awful; it’s certainly more than horrific. It’s monstrous. And not simply because it guts funding for rail projects. The National Endowment for the Arts would be terminated. Meals on Wheels would be gutted. Vital public service after vital public service would be slashed.

This Trump proposal is like the most diabolical initiative Tim Eyman ever came up with, but applicable to the whole country — and on steroids. It’s evil in the form of a wannabe budget. It’s a death sentence for countless of America’s most vulnerable.

Congress cannot and must not pass a budget that resembles anything like what Trump henchman Mick Mulvaney and his cronies published today.

To do so would be one of the most destructive, mean-spirited, and self-defeating acts in the history of the United States. It cannot and must not happen.

It is vital we all speak out against this travesty and let Republican members of Congress like Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Greg Walden know it’s completely and totally unacceptable.


3 Comments

  1. Gretchen Sand
    Posted March 17th, 2017 at 1:15 PM | Permalink

    Is this guy on steroids? This is terrible!

  2. Posted March 17th, 2017 at 4:39 PM | Permalink

    It’s about time this rail cult is curtailed. The expenses of interconnectivity with highways, bus stations, airports and many tourist attractions are ridiculaously higher than any such costs for all forms of rubber-wheeled transit.

    Buses can be run in many sizes and configurations at generally one tenth the cost of any rail system.

    Of course there will changes to be made, some of which will be slower than ideal, but they will be much more sustainabble than any rail systems that have been built so far in America. No rail system in this nation exists on its own — all are heavily subsidized by millions of non-riders.

    I wish you luck on St. Patrick’s Day in finding the good in this new approach to transportation needs. We are all in this together and we will all share the benefits of a reasonably priced transit world.

  3. Shauna Medeiros
    Posted March 26th, 2017 at 8:21 PM | Permalink

    So no trains for Trump backers, only for the coastal states. Yeah, that makes sense… punish your own voters!