Color it neither Democratic nor Republican. It’s Amtrak—or, more precisely, the Amtrak déjà vu. Since its 1971 creation by Congress as America’s national intercity passenger railroad, Amtrak’s survival has been a near-run thing dependent on a never absolutely certain—but always occurring—bipartisan congressional willingness to cough up subsidy.
So here we go again with a White House budget recommendation to Congress short on essential passenger rail dollars that, following the scripts of past tragicomedies, most likely will be revised upward—but realistically concluding with a tintinnabulation rather than a crescendo of financial support. Ah, the travails of the mythical Sisyphus cruelly visited upon passenger rail doers and dreamers!
This latest innumerable chapter in the chronology of Amtrak financial travails records President Trump’s budget recommendations for the 2021 federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Despite perpetuating already trillion-dollar federal deficits, the budget’s proposed spending on Amtrak seeks a 50% cut—for both the Washington, D.C.-Boston Northeast Corridor (NEC) and Amtrak long-distance (L-D) routes—from current 2020 fiscal year spending levels.