New President, New Congress, and New Signs of Interest in Infrastructure Bill
January 24, 2017
During the presidential transition, Congressional Republicans indicated an infrastructure bill would not be on the agenda for the first 100 days of the Trump Administration. The opening days of the Trump presidency, however, have featured a number of positive signs for increased investment in passenger rail.
Inaugural Address: During his first speech as president, President Trump reiterated campaign promises to rebuild America’s infrastructure, explicitly mentioning railways in a callback to earlier statements about high-speed rail.
“We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation,” said President Trump. “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work -- rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.”
Priority Projects Identified: The Trump Administration has reached out to transportation groups to identify a list of projects critical to the national economy and security. NARP was asked to provide input, and we advocated for national and regional rail and transit projects, while providing information about how new passenger rail equipment would grow the U.S. manufacturing sector.
McClatchy Washington Bureau and the Kansas City Star have obtained a document compiled by the Trump Administration. While it is unclear if it is a draft or final, it is heartening that several of the projects NARP identified were on the list. They include the Gateway Project, the Chicago Union Station redevelopment, and Texas Central Railway, along with many others.
Democrats Look for Common Ground: While disagreement remains high on a number of issues, Democrats are looking for common ground with President Trump on his infrastructure ambitions. Democratic leadership, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. While the details haven’t been released, the plan targets transportation, water infrastructure, energy transmission, and much more. It includes $180 billion for “rail and bus systems,” and a $200 billion “vital infrastructure fund” for critical projects like Amtrak’s Gateway Project connecting New York and New Jersey.
Republican leaders have responded to the proposal negatively, saying the numbers are too big. Democrats, however, argue they can work with the Trump Administration to provide a pay-for, and that it will go beyond tax credits for private sector projects.
Some Ominous Signs for Rail: Not all new has been positive, however. A story last week in The Hill reports that Trump’s Transition team prepared a budget that would slash federal funding. Based on a Heritage Foundation budget blueprint, the plan would slash $10.5 trillion over 10 years. That blueprint calls for the elimination of funding to Amtrak, along with debilitating cuts to transit funding.
Passengers Must Speak Out! There are promising indicators, but unless WE act they won’t become reality. NARP is asking our members to make sure that elected officials hear from train passengers on the very first week of the 115th Congress.
NARP is organizing a Day of Action on Thursday, January 26th. Sign up for our alerts and we'll email you Thursday morning to provide you with ways to call and email your members of Congress. It’s vital that the public demands investment in A Connected America—for a more prosperous economy and a better way of life!