House committee questions Chao on infrastructure cuts

Elaine Chao

The U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development recently questioned U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on infrastructure cuts.

Proposed cuts to Amtrak would eliminate the service’s long-distance trains and affect 140 million people, many in rural communities.

“Funding for Amtrak’s long distance routes is another area where Federal investments do not match the level of usage,” Chao said. “Amtrak’s long-distance services are used by a relatively small number of passengers. These trains are very expensive to operate and maintain; and account for much of Amtrak’s operating losses. The president’s budget recognizes this is an area with a low return on investment and instead asks us to concentrate our resources on other portions of Amtrak’s system.”

Amtrak disagrees, stating the opposite is true. In fiscal year 2018, cutting long-distance service would mean a $423 million jump in costs, Amtrak President & CEO Wick Moorman said.

Committee members expressed concern about how President Donald Trump’s infrastructure bill would affect funding for projects, many of which cannot proceed without federal funding.

Chao could not provide details on the bill, only stating that funds would be put into a new investment system.

The federal Department of Transportation’s current budget is $16.3 billion.