While the House and Senate's Fiscal Year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bills differ in important ways (in fact, 10 billion ways), both are a far cry from the budget President Obama proposed back in April. The President's budget requested Congress provide the Federal Railroad Administration with nearly $12 billion to invest in passenger rail systems in fiscal year 2014. This would have been more than ten times the House's proposed funding levels and six times what the Senate proposed.
The President also requested $6.6 billion for a Rail Service Improvement Program that would "develop new key passenger rail corridors, substantially improve existing corridors [and] the Nation's freight network by adding capacity and removing bottlenecks." The House and Senate both proposed virtually nothing for the existing federal high-speed rail program or a new or modified program similar to what the President proposed.
The Senate is planning on taking up their spending bill next week. While the Senate's bill still leaves a lot to be desired, it is far more acceptable than the House bill. Joe Boardman, Amtrak's President and CEO has said that the Senate bill is "realistic" and "workable," but also says that "even at this funding level, there is a significant amount of critical backlog infrastructure work that will not get done. In order for the nation's intercity passenger rail system to reach its full potential, Amtrak will need higher and sustained levels of federal capital funding."
Mr. Boardman said funding levels in the House bill put "every one of our services at risk," including the Northeast Corridor, which he called "bad for revenue, bad for the economy."
National Association of Railroad Passengers campaign:
Get Your Mayor to Tell Washington: We Need More Trains!