Passenger train service in Pasco could be affected by President Trump’s plan to cut $2.4 billion in federal transportation spending in the coming fiscal year.
The president’s proposed budget eliminates subsidies for more than a dozen long-distance passenger lines, including two with implications for Washington — Amtrak’s daily Empire Builder and Coast Starlight.
The proposed budget says the long-distance lines “have long been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.” Instead, the White House wants Amtrak to focus on shorter routes supported by states, such as the Northwest’s Cascades line.
The cuts are proposed in the president’s “skinny budget” for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The 62-page America First document was released last month.
It is unclear how Amtrak would adapt if the subsidies are not restored in the final budget.
It reported nearly $2.2 billion in ticket revenue in 2015, including $50.5 million associated with the Empire Builder and $28.5 million for the Coast Starlight.
Still, it depends on subsidies to operate and sought $650 million in federal operating subsidies for the current year.
The Empire Builder begins its westward trek in Chicago and divides at Spokane. The northern route heads to Seattle, while southern route serves Portland by way of Pasco.
Pasco’s Amtrak station served 22,600 passengers in 2016, according to the National Association of Rail Passengers, a Washington, D.C., interest group lobbying to preserve rail service in the final budget.
The Empire Builder served about 101,000 Washington riders in 2011, according to a rail plan developed for the state Department of Transportation.
Western Washington would be affected by cuts to the Coast Starlight, which parallels Interstate 5 between California and Washington. It served 78,000 passengers in Washington in 2011.
Western Washington would still have an alternative in the Cascades line, a state-supported service that runs on the same track as the Coast Starlight between Eugene, Ore. and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The National Association of Rail Passengers is rallying supporters to stand up for rail service nationwide.
“It’s ironic that President Trump’s first budget proposal undermines the very communities whose economic hardship and sense of isolation from the rest of the country helped propel him into office,” said NARP President Jim Mathews in a news release.
The association said the national trains provide the only national network service to 23 states and the only Amtrak service for 144.6 million Americans.