Trump’s budget plan would impact Indiana Amtrak services

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) If it passes as is, President Trump’s proposed budget would hurt Indiana’s Amtrak services, including the two lines that stop in Waterloo.

“The Trump administration has been talking about a $1 trillion infrastructure package which would include passenger rail which he’s talked about repeatedly, so we were surprised to see these kinds of cuts proposed,” Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association president Fred Lanahan said.

The proposed budget would reduce federal subsidies to Amtrak. The “America First” plan said Amtrak’s long distance services are inefficient and cutting federal funding would allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its state-supported lines and services. There are three long-route Amtrak lines that run through Indiana.

“We would lose all three of those trains. They are all long distance trains and the Trump budget proposes to eliminate long-distance Amtrak funding,” Lanahan said.

With Amtrak funding up in the air as the budget process continues, work on bringing passenger rail through Fort Wayne is moving forward.

“We’re moving forward with an environmental assessment that is a strong indicator that there still would be support for this by the Federal Railroad Administration and, of course, the Indiana Department of Transportation,” NIPRA board member and Fort Wayne city councilman Geoff Paddock said.

While funding is secure for the first step of the project, Lanahan said the next step in the process relies on federal funds.

“The next step, the tier II study for engineering, is much more expensive and normally that is paid for by federal dollars, well they’re all in jeopardy now,” Lanahan said.

Paddock said the budget process takes several months and goes through a lot of changes.

“My hope is that wiser heads will prevail as we move into the summer and the fall and that we’ll see these funds remain intact, or for the most part intact,” Paddock said.

Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman issued the following statement in response to the proposed budget:

Today’s budget proposal to eliminate funding for Amtrak’s long distance service could impact many of the 500 communities we serve.  Amtrak operates 15 long-distance trains across the nation and these routes offer the only Amtrak service in 23 of the 46 states we serve.  These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and State-Supported services.  Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently  – we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 – but these services all require Federal investment.

As the budget process progresses, we look forward to working with President Trump, Secretary Chao, and Congress to ensure they understand the value of Amtrak’s long distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation’s transportation system.”