U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today slammed President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to critical transportation programs that help fund regional mass transit systems throughout New York that millions of commuters rely on each and every day. The Senators especially pointed to the Administration’s proposed cuts to Amtrak as an example of “doubling down on dilapidation” at exactly the moment when more is urgently needed to repair and modernize our aging transit infrastructure.
“President Trump’s campaign promises on infrastructure are crumbling faster than our roads, railways and bridges,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “The President’s proposal to slash American infrastructure investments is a job-killing, 180 degree turn away from his repeated promise of a trillion dollar infrastructure plan. The fuzzy math and sleight of hand can’t hide the fact that the President’s $200 billion plan is more than wiped out by other cuts to key infrastructure programs.”
Schumer added, “Despite the many challenges we are facing at Penn Station, President Trump has just proposed to make it worse by slashing billions in transportation funds from Amtrak and New Starts and the Trust Fund needed to get our mass transit system back on track. Democrats sent President Trump a comprehensive infrastructure plan nearly six months ago to rebuild our nation’s roads, bridges, schools, and expand rural broadband, but it’s apparently fallen on deaf ears.”
“New York City is a major transportation hub that services hundreds of thousands of commuters through Penn Station, Amtrak, LIRR and regional mass transit,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The President’s budget cuts would only further delay long overdue repairs to make our transit systems more safe and reliable. I will do everything I can to fight these harmful cuts and protect the funding that helps support our transit systems.”
Specifically, President Trump’s proposed budget slashes $760 million in federal funds for Amtrak, virtually eliminates the New Starts program—which helps fund the new Gateway Tunnel Program—and cuts the Highway Trust Fund, which is the primary source of funding for States and the MTA to receive federal dollars for repairs, by $96 billion. The Senators said that after decades of GOP budget cuts and disinvestment in transit infrastructure, President Trump’s proposed cuts will only mean further dilapidation and disrepair for New York’s transit systems including the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, subway and Amtrak.
In the Northeast alone, each day 750,000 people travel on rail systems from Washington, DC to Boston, contributing $50 billion to our national economy. The Northeast Corridor consists of 8 commuter railroad systems (including Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Rail Road and New Jersey Transit), and 4 freight railroad systems that carry shale oil, coal, and other goods to and from ports. Overall, the corridor includes a total of 2,000 daily trains. In its current state, service disruptions on the Northeast Corridor alone cost the national economy over $500 million per year and a loss of transit service on the Corridor for a single day would cost the US $100 million.
Schumer and Gillibrand said that, already, the lack of adequate investment in Amtrak has led to an over $38 billion state-of-good-repair backlog and has led to a situation where Amtrak is currently operating on some bridges built between 1890-1910, tunnels built between 1900-1910 and signaling systems dating back to 1930. Maintenance issues are also made worse by a lack of redundant capacity in and out of Penn Station. This means that when signal issues or derailments occur, the delays can last for days because there is only one way in and out of Penn Station.
The Senators said that increasing capacity into Penn Station is a major focus of the Gateway Program, because once fully constructed, it will add new tunnels into and out of New York City. Therefore, the Senators said that investing in and successfully completing the Gateway project is the key to ensuring that small delays and problems don’t become massive headaches. Additionally, the Gateway Program will bring workers in more quickly and more frequently, and will boost job and growth and real estate values on both sides of the Hudson. The Gateway Program, including the Hudson Tunnel Project and Portal North Bridge, have relied on funds provided by the New Starts program which President Trump has proposed slashing by millions. The New Starts program is a type of Capital Investment Grant available through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
President Trump has also proposed cutting billions from the Highway Trust Fund which provides a significant source of federal funding to states for highway and mass transit construction projects. The funds come from the federal fuel tax. New York State receives over $1.6 billion annually from the Highway Trust Fund and hundreds of highway projects are currently underway with the help of this money. Specifically, the Senators noted that the Highway Trust Fund is a major source of funding for the MTA’s capital plan and the proposed cuts by President Trump could cause a number of critical repair projects to be delayed or even cancelled. The Senators also noted that New York State has nearly 7,000 bridges that are either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient and according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 60 percent of New York’s roads are in mediocre or poor condition.