(The Center Square) – Amtrak wants more than $1.7 billion in federal tax dollars for the Northeast Corridor, William J. Flynn, Amtrak’s president & CEO, said in a letter to congressional leaders.
The money is part of more than $4.8 billion the railroad wants in the 2021 fiscal year to help it recover from COVID-19. Amtrak says it might need to eliminate 2,400 jobs and curtail service if it doesn’t get the money.
Amtrak runs high-speed passenger trains on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston. Several transit agencies operate over the corridor, including NJ Transit in New Jersey and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
The railroad has “seen that our ridership is not returning as quickly or at the levels that we had hoped for, and we updated our forecast for FY 21,” Flynn wrote to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.
Flynn said Amtrak’s business remains at about 25 percent of pre-COVID levels, and it predicts ridership and revenue in the 2021 fiscal year will hit 40 percent of pre-COVID levels. That, however, is lower than the level Amtrak officials anticipated.
Meanwhile, as part of an “economic recovery proposal,” Amtrak says it needs another $5.2 billion for the 2021 fiscal year, bringing its total request to more than $10 billion. That is “an amount equivalent to the total appropriation for Amtrak included in the House of Representatives’ FY 21 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill (H.R. 7616),” Flynn wrote.
The “economic recovery proposal” includes more than $1.2 billion for infrastructure improvements on the Northeast Corridor, including the Hudson Tunnel Project between New Jersey and New York City and the Portal North Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey. It also includes $809 million for improvements at “major stations” across the Amtrak network, including Penn Station in New York City and 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.
In August, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $248 million in 2018 and 2019 fiscal year Capital Investment Grants (CIG) to help fund the Portal North Bridge’s replacement. The Pennsylvania Railroad built the bridge in November 1910, and it is considered a “choke point” on the Northeast Corridor.
The project calls for a new, two-track “fixed-span bridge” across the Hackensack River in Hudson County, New Jersey. Various entities, including the federal government, NJ Transit and Amtrak, are sharing the cost of the project, which could total $1.8 billion.
“Not only would deferring capital projects and procurement inhibit our ability to address the reliability and capacity needs of our rail network and impact the aforementioned corresponding capitalized Amtrak workforce, but such capital delays would also impact a specialized domestic supplier network that supports these projects,” Flynn wrote.