August 2, 2018 - TRA Newswire -

The vote was 92-6 in the Senate as the body passed the Transportation-HUD spending bill on Wednesday.  The Senate vote included $2.5 billion for passenger rail as a part of a package of fiscal 2019 funding measures. .  

A strong message was sent to Amtrak management from Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and other legislators from Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado as an amendment was adopted to "compel Amtrak to fulfill its promise of matching funding" for a TIGER grant and "effectively reverse Amtrak's decision to substitute rail service with bus service over large segments of the Southwest Chief route" at least through fiscal 2019. The proposed change from train service to a "bus bridge" in the mid-section of the Southwest Chief would have affected more than just the people who live between Dodge City, KS and Albuquerque, NM, but all travelers between stations from Los Angeles to Chicago.
The win was due in large part to work from D.C.-based Rail Passengers Association staff, council and membership that worked to secure bi-partisan allies in the Senate.  Rail Passengers Association had relaunched its successful “Rally For Trains” grassroots campaign that resulted in no cuts to the national network last year and additional funding made available for 2018.
SA 3665 (Udall-Moran) requires that not less than $50 million from the National Network Account be used for capital expenses related to safety improvements, maintenance and the non-Federal match for discretionary Federal grant programs to enable continued passenger rail operations on segments where Amtrak is the sole tenant and PTC is exempted. Amtrak can not use any of the funds provided for in the National Network Account to give notice or to otherwise initiate discontinuance, reduce frequency, suspend or substantially alter the schedule or route of rail service on these segments, according to the amendment.
In the transportation spending bill the U.S. Senate also agreed to a one-year ban on any new purchase of mass transit rail car or bus rolling stock from companies owned or subsidized by the government of the People’s Republic of China, if the procurement uses any Federal Transit Administration formula or bus funding. The amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was adopted by voice vote. According to the Eno Center for Transportation "the impetus behind this provision appears to come from the U.S. freight rail car manufacturers (Trinity, Greenbrier, etc.). They have seen how successful the Chinese state-owned rail company (CRRC) has been at taking freight rail car market share in other countries and want to head things off in the U.S. as early as possible."