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It's Infrastructure Week (No Joke This Time)

July 8, 2020

It's Infrastructure Week (And This Time House Appropriators Aren't Joking Around)

Today the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) approved by voice vote a Fiscal Year 2021 budget, providing $2 billion for Amtrak and $18.9 billion for transit as part of next year’s budget. Critically, in recognition of the unprecedented financial strains on Amtrak and transit agencies resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, appropriators provided $26 billion in funding for transportation projects to help the economy recover from what promises to be a lingering recession.

[Read the statement from Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews on the House appropriators protections for Amtrak and transit passengers.]

“Our nation is facing an infrastructure crisis, with crumbling roads, aging transit and rail systems, lack of affordable and safe housing, and natural disasters increasing in severity and number, exacerbated by accelerating climate changes,” said Chairman David Price (D-NC). “Meanwhile, COVID-19 is ravaging communities, revealing and deepening existing disparities, while leaving state and local governments with fewer resources and more responsibility to respond… The Fiscal Year 2021 ‘THUD’ funding bill seeks to confront these problems head on.”

Within the standard accounts, House appropriators provided $2 billion for Amtrak—an increase of $50 million over FY2020—and $18.9 billion for transit—an increase of $6 billion over FY2020. However, given the financial hardship faced by these operators from losses in farebox revenue and reductions in revenue from state and local taxes, even this increase wouldn’t have prevented severe reductions in service levels on intercity and transit systems across the U.S. Recognizing this, THUD appropriators provided an additional $8 billion in emergency funding for Amtrak and $5 billion for the Federal Transit Agency’s Capital Investment Grants program. This will allow operators to retain employees and keep trains and buses running while the government and scientists struggle to bring coronavirus infections under control. For Amtrak, specifically, it will allow the railroad to begin the procurement process for new equipment for the National Network and advance capacity projects on the NEC.

Additionally, as requested by members of Congress in partnership with Rail Passengers, House appropriators included service protections for both FY2021 and economic recovery funds. Mirroring language suggested by our association, lawmakers stipulated that:

  1. The funds provided in this bill shall be used by Amtrak to prevent employee furloughs; and
  2. None of the funding in this bill is intended to be used by Amtrak to reduce the frequency of rail service on any long-distance route or State-supported route below frequencies for such routes in fiscal year 2019, except in an emergency, during maintenance or construction outages impacting such routes, or at the request of the State(s) supporting such State-supported routes.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the full House Appropriations Committee, said the “emergency funding in this bill is pivotal to kickstart a strong and equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse.” The full committee is expected to pass the bill in mid-July, with the House expected to take it up before the August recess. The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to unveil its counter proposal.

This is a huge victory for the advocacy and organizing work of this organization, our members and allied groups! Please take a moment to check if your U.S. Representative is on the THUD Appropriations Committee to pass on your thanks as a passenger!

Say "Thank You"!


House FY21 THUD Funding Levels ($M)

Rail - FY21

Amtrak - National Network


Amtrak - Northeast Corridor


Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements


Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair


Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program


Rail Subtotal


Transit - FY21

Formula Grants


Capital Investment Grants


Transit Infastructure Grants


Transit Subtotal


BUILD Grants - FY21


Economic Recovery Funds - Rail and Transit

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements


Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program


Amtrak - National Network


Amtrak - Northeast Corridor


FTA Capital Investment Grants


BUILD Grants


Economic Recovery Funds Subtotal



The work of the Rail Passengers Association has taken on a new urgency in the wake of COVID-19. We couldn’t afford to be silent as the fate of the passenger rail system was in jeopardy. The word from House appropriators underscores that good things happen when YOU use your voices in collaboration with Rail Passengers staff. Investments in a better, more efficient U.S. transportation system will set each region of the country up for a successful recovery and return dividends for generations to come.

This win is because of YOUR support. Your memberships and donations enable the Rail Passengers Association staff to keep working closely with congressional leaders and decisionmakers to ensure passenger rail gets the funds it needs to help the country recover and move forward. Make a donation today by clicking HERE…$50, $100,$250 or more helps continue the work of protecting the National Network, long-distance routes and the rural efficiency of travel.

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