Amtrak riders in Rome, and elsewhere, could be left standing on the platform if President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts for the national passenger rail service are passed and that worries Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi.
Under a spending plan released Monday, the Trump administration proposed cutting the federal contribution from $1.495 billion to $738 million in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. It’s just one tiny piece of Trump’s $4.4 trillion fiscal 2019 budget.
“Simply put, the White House’s 2019 budget would derail our local Amtrak service and put our community in the crosshairs of egregious and unnecessary new costs,” said Brindisi, D-119, Utica. “Not only does the proposal dramatically slash federal funding for Amtrak, it also shifts much of the funding responsibility to states and localities at a time when they already are shouldering over three quarters of the burden of infrastructure funding in our country.”
He spoke about the situation Wednesday at Union Station in Utica. Amtrak trains also make stops in Rome at the Martin Street station. Over the last three years, Union Station has averaged about 60,000 riders a year, while the Rome one has seen more than 9,000 passengers annually, according to the state legislator.
“... it’s outrageous that New York would be asked to pick up much of the tab for rail service, which would mean even higher taxes for Mohawk Valley residents,” said Brindisi, who wants to be the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 22nd District this fall.
The assemblyman is urging New York’s congressional delegation to reject the White House budget proposal, saying it will harm the state’s economy, inconvenience local business and tourism travel, and jeopardize the safety of rail passengers. A similar request for Amtrak cuts by the Trump administration last year wasn’t embraced by Congress.
“In releasing his budget, the White House has made it as clear as day that there is no forward-thinking plan to keep the economy on track, especially when you go and slash rail service that has helped keep Utica and Rome connected with New York City and business and commerce and tourism,” said Brindisi.
The Trump administration’s main issue is with the long distance train routes, which it says have large operating losses of more than $500 million annually and serve a small number of passengers. Federal subsidies have propped up these money-losing routes, the budget document contends.
The Rail Passengers Association, an advocacy group for riders, railed against the cuts it estimates will hurt 220 small towns and 140 million people.