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February 22, 2018

Area officials raise concern over Trump's proposed Amtrak budget cuts

Amtrak Budget Cuts
amtrak NC collision Tim Dominick/The State/TNS/Sipa USA

The scene on Feb. 4, 2018 after an Amtrack train crashed into a CSX frieght train in Cayce, S.C. The engineer and conductor were killed.

Several Philadelphia lawmakers are expressing concern over President Donald Trump’s call for Amtrak budget cuts, despite several fatal accidents that have occurred in recent years.

Trump’s budget plan proposes cutting $128 million from the federal subsidy that aids Amtrak’s entire Northeast Corridor, which services Philadelphia and many other cities. In total, the budget would cut the entire Amtrak budget in half.

Several lawmakers have expressed concern over the proposed cuts, highlighting the train’s role in cutting car traffic and acting as a more environmentally friendly option. Additionally, though Trump’s budget designates $200 billion of federal funds for infrastructure to garner $1.3 trillion in state, local, and private funding, there is concern that even those funds aren’t enough to ensure safety and upkeep.

“I would prefer to see more money from the feds,” said Rep. Leonard Lance of Central New Jersey to WHYY. “There will have to be a partnership, but I would like to see more money from the federal government.” 

“We need intercity rail service that is safe as well as efficient,” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said.

“When somebody gets on a train … they should be able to feel that they are going to come home safe and sound to their family.”

Rail safety hits particularly close to home due to 2015’s deadly Amtrak accident just outside at Frankford Junction in Port Richmond – an incident that has sparked debate not only over funding for transit safety and maintenance but also about how best to qualify train engineers. The engineer during the 2015 derailment, Brandon Bostian, recently had charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment reinstated against him for the 2015 crash.

Earlier this month an Amtrak collision occurred in South Carolina, the train previously traveled through Philadelphia and was carry at least one passenger from the area. Two passengers died and more than 100 were injured in the accident.