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Brooklyn Rep. Goldman slams proposed Amtrak cuts

September 28, 2023 Raanan Geberer
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Brooklyn-Manhattan Rep. Dan Goldman is leading a bipartisan charge against a proposal by the GOP-dominated House Appropriations Committee to cut $560 million from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, aka Amtrak.

While most Amtrak routes lose money, Northeast Corridor service, from Washington D.C. to Boston, has shown a consistent profit. According to Eno Center for Transportation, for Fiscal Year 2023, Amtrak is forecast to show a profit of $6.7 million, and the number is expected to increase to $219 million in FY 2024 as the nation continues to recover from COVID-era numbers.

Therefore, it is somewhat inexplicable that the House proposal would cut Northeast Corridor spending to 90 percent, according to Goldman and other transit advocates.

In a letter to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries, House Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Goldman was joined by Reps. Emilia Sykes (D-Ohio), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) and Don Bacon (D-Nebraska), as well as 59 other members of Congress.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Goldman’s district includes Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Gowanus, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, South Slope and Sunset Park in Brooklyn, as well as all of Lower Manhattan.

Rep. Dan Goldman. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

“The proposed budget cuts to Amtrak are shortsighted, and cannot be ameliorated by advance appropriations from the IIJA (Investment Infrastructure and Jobs Act): those funds are limited to specific categories of capital investments,” the letter said.

“Underfunding Amtrak’s annual appropriations will undermine necessary state-of-good repair work, inhibit progress on other capital projects, and runs counter to the interests of millions of our constituents who rely on efficient and reliable rail service,” it continued.

Joining in the lawmakers’ criticism, Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said that “if the proposed levels become law, Amtrak will have to radically reduce or suspend service on various routes across the nation.”

While Amtrak has not been profitable, ridership has been steadily rising. According to a recent report from the rail agency, ridership this year is 3.2 million higher compared with 2022, “driven by higher ridership across all service lines due to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In New York City, Amtrak service centers upon the new Moynihan Station and does not go into Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island. However there have been some proposals to have some Amtrak trains travel directly to the island’s East End, presumably over Long Island Rail Road tracks.

According to the letter signed by Goldman and the other representatives, “some Republican state lawmakers, including in Texas, have indicated interest in investing in Amtrak. The Texas Department of Transportation recently put forward plans to build a passenger rail line between Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio.”

New York City’s long Republican congresswoman, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Southern Brooklyn-Staten Island), in July said she was going through a Republican spending bill proposing to slash Amtrak and would submit amendments “wherever possible” to prevent cuts to “essential Amtrak operations.”

Some Amtrak lines have state as well as federal support, which reduces the burden on the federal government. For example, Amtrak service in Virginia was extended in 2017 to Roanoke with state support.

“The Roanoke line has been one of the most successful lines in the country when it comes to state-supported service,” said Jennifer Mitchell of the Federal railroad Administration. “The revenues the trains have brought in actually cover the entire cost of the service. Ridership has doubled to over 220,000 since its launch, and a recent forecast found we would add 83,000 riders on this line by extending it to Christiansburg.”

Giving the anti-Amtrak viewpoint recently was Leland Vittert on the NewsNation website:

“We spend $2 billion a year to fund Amtrak. Year after year, the money goes right down the drain,” he wrote. “We could’ve used that money to double the number of food stamps for needy families. Or as we talked about earlier, for our military families. We could build a house for every Iraq and Afghanistan veteran. Maybe the money could be put toward five new aircraft carriers to hold off China’s military aggression.”

While Kevin McCarthy didn’t comment on the recent Appropriations Committee move, in 2011 he sought to freeze spending for a “bullet train” from San Francisco to Anaheim, California.

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