Two Railways Diverged: Amtrak Planning Expansion While Cutting Service

Amtrak is presented with the potential for two futures: In one is a $25 billion expansion to update national intercity rail with contemporary patterns of settlement. In the other is fiscal crisis and continued service cuts.

2 minute read

October 27, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Madalyn Mendoza reports on the diverging potential paths for Amtrak, as exemplified by the example of Texas, where the agency recently reduced Texas Eagle daily service from San Antonio to Chicago to three times a week.

That service reduction was made as Amtrak also makes news for a $25 billion plan to expand service around the country. "Amtrak is also hoping to tap into funds from potential national infrastructure bills such as the INVEST Act, which would provide $28.55 billion for Amtrack over five years," reports Mendoza.

Mendoza relays information presented by Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director for national state relations, on Amtrak's expansion plans in September, just a few weeks before the cuts to Texas Eagle service were implemented.

A series of Tweets by Politico reporter Sam Mintz shows the maps of Amtrak's planned expansion maps. Both Mintz and Mendoza suggests that Amtrak would fare well under a Biden presidency, in addition to an expected boon to the Gateway Project connecting New Jersey to New York via the Hudson River.

The Texas Eagle service might not be the last service to get cut as Amtrak deals with the fiscal consequences of the pandemic. As reported in a separate article by Pranshu Verma, Amtrak President and CEO William J. Flynn has been lobbying Congress for $4.9 billion in funding to stave off  more cuts (that's $2 billion the rail agency's standard appropriation and $2.8 billion in emergency funding). According to Verma, projected revenue for Amtrak has declined by 53 percent in 2020.

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