In addition to slashing funding for the arts, education programs, climate change research, and worker protections (among many other things), another lesser known casualty of President Donald Trump’s “morally obscene” budget proposal: Amtrak.
The president’s so-called “skinny budget” will eliminate all federal funding for Amtrak’s national train network, meaning 220 cities will lose all passenger service, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) warned this week.
“It’s ironic that President 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,” said NARP president Jim Mathews.
“These working class communities—many of them located in the Midwest and the South—were tired of being treated like ‘flyover country,’” Mathews continued. “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,” he added, “don’t have airports or Uber to turn to; they depend on these trains.”
Specifically, Trump’s proposal slashes $2.4 billion (or 13 percent) from transportation spending, threatening long distance routes including the east coast’s Silver Star and Silver Meteor lines, the New York-Chicago Cardinal train service, the Empire Builder, which connects Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, as well as the effort to restore the Gulf Coast line.
In addition to cutting Amtrak’s national network—which provides the only connection to the national network for 23 states and 144.6 million Americans—it also cuts $2.3 billion in funding for new transit and commuter rail projects that would have provided thousands of construction and long-term job opportunities.
Further, in one of her first official acts, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao indefinitely suspended a grant which would have provided funding for two electric, high-speed rail lines in California: one which would have run from Los Angeles to San Francisco and the other a Bay Area commuter line.
Mathews noted that the cuts come at the same time that Trump continues to “promise that our tax dollars will be invested in rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”
“Instead,” he continued, “we have seen an all-out assault on any project—public and private—that would advance passenger rail. These cuts and delays are costing the U.S. thousands of good-paying construction and manufacturing jobs in America’s heartland at this very moment.”
Trump’s planned infrastructure investment has been largely panned as a “huge tax giveaway for the rich,” as it will largely go to subsidizing developers and investors rather than be used for much needed projects and services.
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Lauren McCauley is a Common Dreams staff writer.