President's budget would cut Amtrak service in Florida

Spending plan would cut all 3 routes to Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. – President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget plan would essentially eliminate Amtrak service to Florida.

The $4.1 trillion budget includes $75.7 billion in spending for the Department of Transportation, down 2.2 percent from 2017.

Trump is suggesting cutting grants to Amtrak long-distance services by $630 million and reducing the Highway Trust Fund by $95 billion over a decade.

The long-distance service cut includes all three routes to and from Florida: the Auto train from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford; the Silver Meteor, from Miami to Orlando and Orlando to New York; and the Silver Star, which runs daily from Miami to Tampa to Orlando to New York.

Tourists Robert Callahan and Clive Windley are visiting from Europe. They tell News 6 they enjoy taking SunRail while in Central Florida and they're considering riding the Amtrak train to Miami.

"That would be really awesome. I'd really enjoy that, especially if you're going on a cruise," Callahan said.

But Trump's proposal could derail their plans.

News 6 spoke to Amtrak officials Tuesday that confirmed the FY 2018 proposed budget would significantly impact service to more than 30 million people, including Floridians.

"Cutting funding in this way would force Amtrak to cut all service to 23 states and will shift major costs onto our remaining Northeast Corridor and state-support trains, imperiling them," Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said.

Woods also said that the budget would not allow for needed upgrades and repairs to aging infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor.

"There is broad consensus that significant capital investment in the aging infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor is essential to meet the long-term needs of the Northeast region as well as the rest of the nation," Woods told News 6.

According to Amtrak, 950,000 people rode their trains in Florida during fiscal year 2016. Amtrak officials say half of those riders are tourists who generate $860,000 in tourist spending. The company also employs 730 Florida residents.

"That's crazy to give away funding on that, not a good idea," Callahan said. 

Travelers tells us they are against the cuts, saying it would limit their options.

"People need all forms of transport. Not everybody likes flying. [Trains] are the alternative," Windley said.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, was quick to criticize Trump's budget plan, saying that it would hinder ongoing efforts to restore Amtrak service in Florida's Panhandle and on the Gulf
Coast.

“This just doesn’t make sense,” Nelson said. “Eliminating Amtrak service in Florida not only affects the nearly 1 million Floridians who ride the train each year, it would have a real impact on our tourism-driven economy by making it harder for folks to come visit our state.”


About the Authors:

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!