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Senators are planning to endorse a higher funding level for Amtrak than the Biden administration requested, even after a watchdog warned the rail company will struggle to spend the influx of money it’s receiving under the infrastructure law.
The White House requested $3 billion for Amtrak for fiscal 2023, but the rail corporation told Congress it needs an additional $300 million. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and others are endorsing the higher amount, according to his office.
“I’ll be leading the letter for the Amtrak request to $3.3 billion,” Coons told Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during an appropriations hearing on Thursday.
The surge in money going to Amtrak from the infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58) could hurt the rail company’s ability to manage its current resources, its Office of the Inspector General found in a report this month.
But Amtrak wrote in its fiscal 2023 request that it is seeking $1.1 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $2.2 billion for its national network in annual appropriations. It would get an additional $4.4 billion through the infrastructure law, bringing its total ask for this year to $7.7 billion.
“As the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to affect revenue and ridership, robust FY 2023 grant funding is needed to enable Amtrak to continue operating our Long-Distance trains,” Amtrak wrote to top lawmakers and the administration.
Coons said rail needs both robust annual appropriations and the infrastructure law spending to address the backlog of needs. Buttigieg agreed, saying inadequate funding would set back “the reliability, the dependability, the frequency, and ultimately the speed of travel along these Amtrak routes.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org