A new report by the National Association of Railroad Passengers says cutting train service across the nation may hurt rural communities throughout the US.

At the same time, according to the NARP, the study says that an increase in federal funding for Amtrak and other passenger rail service would create vast economic growth in those same areas.

The NARP study and press release is a response to President Donald Trump’s proposed budget which eliminated Amtrak and TIGER Grant funding. According to a release from the NARP, the planned budget cuts would have negatively affected the local economies for 45 percent of American taxpayers.

"Investing in rail for the long-term should be a key priority for the next budget cycle," said Jim Mathews, NARP president and CEO. "Those in Congress who believe that passenger rail is not profitable are mistaken.

"What they don’t see is the big picture. A robust national — and international — intermodal transportation system is crucial to economic growth, especially in those rural and less wealthy areas where travel options are already limited."

According to reports, funding for Amtrak and essential air service were both included in the budget passed by the US House of Representatives recently. If Amtrak funding was removed, it would kill the Southwest Chief, which travels from Chicago to Los Angeles and stops twice a day — eastbound and westbound — in Dodge City.

The report cites specific examples of the economic disparity that would result from cutting portions of the national rail network. For instance, household income lags the national average in blue collar towns between Chicago and Los Angeles where service would be cut. The same is true in the long corridor from New Orleans to New York and from New York to Chicago. Conversely, the budget proposals would seek to preserve service for wealthy, populous towns along the eastern seaboard between Washington and Boston.

"These budget proposals are not fair to rural, red-state America most of all," said Mathews. "There are 220 communities in 23 states of so-called ‘flyover country’ that would pay the economic price when trains disappear from their towns and cities. But, if we have the foresight to invest in middle America, the whole nation would reap the benefits."

According to the report, rail service can help economically by expanding service, bringing in real estate development, saving Amtrak jobs (instead of cutting them) and by saving lives.

"If we could shift just 1 percent of car traffic to rails, we would save 200 lives each year," Mathews said. "If 200 people don’t matter to you, consider them in harsh economic terms: According the US DOT, 200 lives equals $1.88 billion per year in economic value."

NARP is a national organization working for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. NARP has more than 28,000 members nationwide. To read more of the report, visit www.narprail.org.

 

To contact the writer email rbluhm@dodgeglobe.com.