February 12, 2021 - TRA Newswire -

Four Republican Texas Congressional members on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to kill all funding for Amtrak, the sole national passenger rail carrier, but  bipartisan support voted down an amendment Wednesday.

The amendment was tagged onto a pandemic relief bill that passed House T&I.

The bill will restore daily service on Amtrak's long distance trains, including those in Texas, bring back employees furloughed due to Covid-19, allow $30 billion for transit systems, $280 million for rural public transportation and $50 million for elderly and disabled to use rail and public transportation for essential travel.

The amendment to eliminate all funding for Amtrak was filed by Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry (R) but was overwhelmingly defeated 43-23 with bipartisan support.

The members from Texas that serve on House T&I and voted on the amendment to defund Amtrak were Brian Babin (R) Port Arthur; Randy Weber (R) Pearland; Troy Nehls (R) Richmond and Beth Van Duyne (R) Irving.

"Texas Rail Advocates is disappointed that the four Texas members serving on House Transportation and Infrastructure voted to defund Amtrak," according to TRA President Peter LeCody. "Amtrak is the only national passenger rail carrier that can access freight railroad lines to serve many small and medium size towns in Texas and the U.S. that have limited transportation options. Texas needs more transportation choices and to expand passenger rail, not go backwards and force our citizens back on the roads."
DC-based Rail Passengers Association reported that "the $1.5 billion in funds will be essential to restoring the trains we all count on. For long-distance trains, Amtrak is required to bring back daily service within 90 days of the passage of the bill into law." Restoration of service would include the Texas Eagle, which was cut back to tri-weekly service last year during the height of the pandemic.