The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is making more than $1 billion under the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act available to Amtrak “to support the railroad’s activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the spread of COVID-19) in the U.S. and its impacts on operations and business.”
FRA will make or amend existing grants to Amtrak to provide approximately $1.02 billion: $492 million for the Northeast Corridor and $526 million for National Network Grants, as authorized by sections 11101(a) and 11101(b) of the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, the multimodal surface transportation legislation that provides statutory parameters for FRA’s execution and oversight of grant agreements with Amtrak for federal funds appropriated by Congress.
At least $239 million of the CARES Act funds will help mitigate the cost of providing service on Amtrak’s 28 State-supported intercity passenger rail routes, where, under PRIIA (Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008), State governments are required to pay for ticket revenue shortfalls. These funds will be used in lieu of any increase in States’ payments.
Amtrak has experienced an unprecedented decline of more than 90% percent in ridership in recent weeks as well as a decline in future ticket purchases for the coming months, and has pulled certain routes out of service. The CARES Act funding will be used to offset the loss of ticket revenue, which is used to pay Amtrak’s employees, buy fuel for its locomotives and construction materials for its projects, maintain Amtrak’s network of intercity passenger routes (including those in rural areas that have seen total cancellation in service), and fund track and infrastructure maintenance programs on the Northeast Corridor.
Each year, FRA executes and oversees grant agreements with Amtrak for the Federal funds appropriated by Congress. In conjunction with operating revenues and funds from States, local governments and other entities, Amtrak uses Federal funds for a wide range of its operating and capital activities, including a portion of its operating expenses, capital maintenance of fleet and infrastructure, capital expansion and investment programs, and capital debt repayment.
“This funding will help ensure that Amtrak is able to quickly return to service supporting the public’s transportation mobility needs and America’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said. “We are committed to transparency and are requiring enhanced reporting from Amtrak to show how the CARES Act funding is being efficiently and effectively used to respond to present challenges.”