NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

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.

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3 Comments

  1. Is this guy on steroids? This is ter­ri­ble!

    # by Gretchen Sand :: March 17th, 2017 at 1:15 PM
  2. 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.

    # by RICHARD CANARY :: March 17th, 2017 at 4:39 PM
  3. So no trains for Trump back­ers, only for the coastal states. Yeah, that makes sense… pun­ish your own vot­ers!

    # by Shauna Medeiros :: March 26th, 2017 at 8:21 PM