Amtrak will celebrate its 50th anniversary on May 1, 2021. For the entire time the agency has been operating, funding has come from annual congressional appropriations that rose and fell based largely on which political party was in power.
The ability to prepare budgets and plan for long-term capital improvements has been hampered by uncertainty surrounding the amount of funding to expect. Passengers felt the brunt of this, too, as the quality of on-board services varied from year to year, and several services disappeared altogether.
Last week, the earth stood still as a two members of Congress introduced a bill called the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act, which would provide permanent funding for Amtrak, much like the Highway Trust Fund provides for road and highway maintenance needs. If this legislation is approved by Congress and signed by President Biden, it would have a major impact on how Amtrak conducts business.
Here is the announcement:
“U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Danny Davis (D-Ill.) introduced the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act [last week] to provide permanent funding for Amtrak. The bicameral legislation would create a dedicated funding stream to help Amtrak invest in major improvement projects, increase passenger rail’s efficiency, and help provide safer, more reliable service. Intercity passenger rail currently relies on the often unpredictable and limited annual appropriations process for funding, making it difficult to plan long-term, comprehensive investments needed to improve the system. The bill is being introduced ahead of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s Wednesday hearing on transportation infrastructure. Over the next several months, Congress will consider legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs, including Amtrak operations.”
For more information, please see Sen. Blumenthal’s website.