Following the Amtrak derailment in Washington state where several cars jumped the track, leaving three people dead and over 100 injured, many are looking into the causes that contributed to the tragedy. One issue, in particular, has taken center stage since the accident: The Amtrak Budget 2018.
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak, runs long- and medium-distance passenger rail lines across the country. One of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to resuscitate ailing infrastructure in disrepair across the country, with Trump’s tweet following the train derailment restating that promise. But the U.S. Department of Transportation budget reveals that Amtrak may, in fact, lose funding, leading many to question Donald Trump’s Amtrak funding commitment and his dedication to fixing infrastructure across the country.
The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2017
While Trump’s derailment tweet seemingly reaffirmed his desire to fix U.S. infrastructure, the Amtrak accident forced many to take a second look at what is happening on a policy level in regards to the lofty campaign promise that the president made.
Despite his words to the contrary, Trump has been looking to implement Amtrak budget cuts in 2018 and has yet to appropriate funds for the massive infrastructure repair program that the country desperately needs.
“If the United States continues to underinvest in infrastructure, we will continue to fall further and further behind our peers,” read the U.S. budget proposal for 2018. But that has hardly spurred spending.
The U.S. Department of Transportation faces a 13% reduction in its total discretionary budget, on par with broad cuts across many U.S. government services that were also featured in the budget. Cuts were made to Amtrak, regional transit grants, and the Highway Trust Fund, all which are necessary to maintaining roads and railways across the country.
The dissonance between Trump’s words and his policies will leave the state of infrastructure in the country relatively untouched, which is to say in poor repair and deteriorating.
The American Civil Society of Engineers gave the U.S.’s infrastructure a D+, while the rail report card said that passenger railways face “aging infrastructure and insufficient funding.”
Trump’s Proposed Transportation Budget for 2018 Will Cut into Amtrak’s Funding
The bottom line is that if in fact, the Washington derailment was in any way caused by failing infrastructure, the Amtrak budget cuts are only going to exacerbate that problem.
Trump’s transportation budget cuts include a $630.0-million reduction for the railway operator.
This runs in direct opposition to Trump’s infrastructure plan, which promised a $1.0-trillion investment plan for the country.
The disparity in what the president promises versus what is taking place is a threat to Amtrak long-distance trains, critics argue.
An advocacy group, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), said that the budget “wipes out funding for long-distance train service in over 220 cities and towns and in 23 states that will lose train service completely.” Among the railways affected, many will be in rural areas where there is little in the way of alternative transportation.
The Amtrak budget cuts could eliminate certain passenger lines altogether, making travel between areas far more difficult, especially for those who had come to rely on the railway.
Amtrak Accidents in Recent Years Reflects the U.S. Rail System Woes
Amtrak accidents have been mounting over the years, with the Amtrak budget cuts unlikely to solve the issue.
Several high-profile train derailments over the past seven years, including the most recent accident, have led to over 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries as the railway struggles to contend with budget pressures and failing infrastructure.
This makes the Amtrak budget crisis all the more urgent. Should the organization find itself unable to deal with the new budget restraints, coupled with U.S. rail infrastructure receiving such poor grades by observers, the future of passenger railway travel in the U.S. at the moment looks to be anything but stable.
“Amtrak CEO calls fatal derailment a ‘wake-up call,” CNN, December 20, 2017.
“Amtrak’s $630m Trump budget cut could derail service in 220 US cities,” The Guardian, July 30, 2017.
“In Trump’s America, Infrastructure Is Not for the People,” CityLab, May 23, 2017.
“2017 Infrastructure Report Care,” ACSE, 2017.
“Amtrak’s deadliest crashes in recent years,” Fox News, December 19, 2017.