The proposed 2018 budget from the Trump Administration cuts overall Department of Transportation funding by 13% and slashes several key programs.
The Washington Post reports that cuts for transit and rail programs include the following:
- Limits Federal Transit Administration New Starts (Capital Investment Grants) program to support only projects that already have full funding grant agreements.
- Cuts $499 million from the DOT TIGER grant program, which funds transit, highway, bicycle, and pedestrian-oriented projects.
- Eliminates federal support for Amtrak long-distance routes to “allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its state-supported and Northeast Corridor train services.”
Reactions from transit supporters are pouring in.
The American economy and communities of all sizes would be losers if the proposed reductions in the FTA Capital Investment Grants (CIG), the TIGER program, and Amtrak are enacted. As it stands now, America is already underinvesting in public transportation, as noted in the recently released American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card. These proposed cuts would make the existing $90 billion of State of Good Repair gap even worse.
The White House has proposed to stop funding transit projects through the New Starts and Small Starts program (Capital Investment Grants), which matches over $2 billion in local funding for rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit projects every year. The budget also envisions eliminating TIGER, an extremely popular program that funds innovative projects with proven benefits in communities in all 50 states. TIGER is already underfunded: just 5% of eligible projects were funded last year. Finally, the proposed elimination of subsidies to Amtrak services, which had record ridership last year, would leave communities around the country without viable national rail connections at a time when we need more connections between our communities, not fewer.
The austerity measures offered for transportation in the President’s budget blueprint go in the wrong direction and must be rejected. We cannot cut our way to a better and more modern transportation system. The President has rightfully called for a historic $1 trillion investment in our transportation system and infrastructure. But the budget released today does not advance that vision and instead would deal a severe blow to many key investment programs that are critical to our passenger and freight transportation network.
The proposed $16.2 billion budget also moves air traffic control to an independent non-government organization and eliminates Essential Air Service, which subsidizes flights to rural airports.
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao put an optimistic spin on the cuts. “The budget announced today preserves the ongoing safety programs at the heart of our Department’s mission,” she wrote in the Highlights blog (previously known as Fast Lane). “The program will encompass common-sense regulatory, administrative, organizational, and policy changes that will speed project delivery.”
Image source: USDOT