Transportation Secretary Buttigieg announces $1.69B in FRA funds for Amtrak

As part of the American Rescue Plan, Amtrak will receive $169 billion from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced Tuesday.

The money is intended to provide relief from the impacts of COVID-19 on the railroad’s operations, workforce, and state funding partners.

“Help is here. The President’s American Rescue Plan is already delivering for workers and the traveling public,” Buttigieg said. “This new assistance for Amtrak will get employees back to work and restore service on routes across the country, at a time when this help is urgently needed.”

After experiencing its best year in 2019, Amtrak faced an unprecedented decline in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, revenue shortfalls forced the company to furlough employees and reduce levels of service. Funding from the American Rescue Plan will primarily be used to offset losses in ticket revenue that Amtrak uses to operate trains and maintain its infrastructure. Amtrak has already begun recalling furloughed employees and plans on restoring long-distance service in late May.

Of the funds, $969,388,160 is obligated to the Northeast Corridor (NEC), while $728,611,840 is obligated to the National Network of state-supported and long-distance intercity passenger routes. These obligations will also be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to the pandemic.

“The timing of this funding is essential to helping ensure that Amtrak is able to quickly return to service supporting the Nation’s transportation needs and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said FRA Acting Administrator Amit Bose. “For our part, we are committed to transparency and are requiring enhanced reporting from Amtrak to show how funding from the American Rescue Plan is being efficiently and effectively used to respond to present challenges.”

As part of the agreement with the FRA, Amtrak will be required to report the number of furloughed employees recalled to service and provide a schedule for the recall of all furloughed employees.

At least $109 million will be used to help states and commuter railroad pay their share of capital costs associated with using the NEC, while another $174 million must be used to offset amounts that states are required to pay for routes along the National Network. The funding also includes $100.8 million for debt relief Amtrak incurred before March 11, 2021.

Liz Carey

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