Just hours after deadly train crash, Congress is set to debate proposed cuts to Amtrak's budget

Amtrak Philadelphia crashAP Photo/Joseph KaczmarekEmergency personnel work the scene of a train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and crashed in Philadelphia.

The deadly crash of an Amtrak train outside Philadelphia on Tuesday night may put pressure on Congress to reexamine proposed cuts to Amtrak’s federal subsidy.

On Wednesday morning at 10:15, just hours after the crash, the House Appropriations Committee is set to debate a 2016 budget bill that contains cuts to Amtrak, including funding reductions for rail construction and repair. The bill would reduce Amtrak’s funding from $US1.4 billion to $US1.13 billion.

The fatal crash on Amtrak’s Northeastern Regional train killed 6 people and injured dozens.

Rail advocates have been particularly concerned with the current set of cuts. In September, the Northeast Alliance for Rail sent a letter to the House Transportation Subcommittee urging Congress to keep key provisions of the railroad budget intact to ensure safety.

“We cannot prevent major infrastructure failure on the NEC and support important long distance rail service without greater federal investment on an annual basis,” said Robert Yaro, president of the NAR, according to The Hill. “We urge the committee and your partners in the Senate to authorise greater annual investment levels in a final reauthorization package.”

The last time that a major piece of legislation on Amtrak funding was passed in Congress was in the wake of a deadly train crash in California in 2008 that killed 25 people. Then, Congress passed a comprehensive bill reauthorizing funding and helping ensure rail safety.

The House passed a reauthorization of the bill in March that allows funding for vital repairs to infrastructure in the Northeast corridor, where Amtrak’s traffic is heavy and where the crash occurred.

But the White House and some Congressional Democrats have said that funding doesn’t go far enough to ensure rail safety. Republicans argue that the current allocation keeps key funding measures intact while forcing Amtrak to be more responsible with its annual construction budget.

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