Paso Robles Amtrak station safe from proposed Trump budget cuts
–The Paso Robles branch of the Amtrak network will not be discontinued due to President Trump’s proposed transportation budget cuts, according to Paso Robles City Councilman Fred Strong and Joe McHugh, the vice president of Government Affairs & Corporate Communications at Amtrak.
Amtrak stations in over 220 U.S. cities may be defunded based on the budget cuts, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP).
The 2018 budget set aside for the Department of Transportation holds a 13 percent decrease than the 2017 budget, amounting to $16.2 billion. The plan targets Amtrak’s long-distance routes by eliminating funds and focusing on Amtrak’s state and Northeast Corridor routes. Amtrak operates 15 long distance routes in 23 states; defunding these routes could result in a lack of transportation in about 500 communities, mostly in the Midwest and South. Amtrak served over 31.3 million riders in 2016, while only traveling a projected low of 6.5 billion miles.
To resist the budget cuts, NARP registered cities to host rallies across the U.S. on June 23-24. The San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station will host a rally in the upcoming weeks.
“[The budget cut is] a terrible, but not uncommon, event. I believe Congress should be making slow, steady forward progress with the funding of passenger rail. It’s the most environmentally conservative form of public transportation and likely the least subsidized… at least as when compared to highways and air travel… I fully believe that multiple modes of public transportation are necessary for a healthy nation,” said Stu Stoddard, the organizer of the SLO rally and a member of NARP.
As Amtrak will continue to serve Paso Robles, Councilman Strong has a possible solution facing a current transportation problem: how to continue funding for transportation and infrastructure maintenance with the introduction of environmentally-friendly vehicles that reduce tax revenue.
“The biggest problem we have had is funding our highways, specifically, with the gas tax… as soon as we started becoming very environmentally conscious and we encouraged more efficient cars, they use less fuel, but they use less fuel to still go as many miles as they went before and causing wear and tear on the roads. the expenses are still the same… but the revenues are going down,” said Strong, who proposes a funding plan that will “charge people based on the number of miles they actually use the road and the weight of their vehicle” as a solution.