Famed City of New Orleans train service would cease with Trump's budget plan

City of New Orleans Train in Jeopardy

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The famous train with its own song, The City of New Orleans, will be forced to end service if President Donald Trump passes his proposed budget.

Trump's budget proposal cuts more than $5 billion to long-distance-service trains across the country. Three of those trains stop in New Orleans: the Crescent to New York; the Sunset Limited, which travels to Los Angeles; and the City of New Orleans, which travels to Chicago.

Regional Planning Commission member Karen Parsons believes cutting those funds would have lasting implications.

"It's part of our economic structure. It's supports economic development," Parsons said. "It's not just us. It's all over the country. People depend on the train and it's not a well-thought-out plan, I think."

According to Amtrak, more than 200,000 people board the train in Louisiana every year, which is a little less than the population of the City of Baton Rouge. Ridership has declined for the past two years in Louisiana, but by shutting down long-distance services, each state that the train would travel through would have to fund track services every year.

"We're talking seven to 10 states working together, and those budget cycles are all different. The politics of each state are different. It would be very difficult. Let's say if one state decided not to participate, what is the train suppose to do? Pass through that state and not serve those customers?," Parsons said. "The long-distance trains are viable options for people who cannot drive, who cannot fly, who are low income."

"With any budget cut comes consequences," FOX 8 Political Analyst Mike Sherman. "We find ourselves on the front end of those consequences here in New Orleans with the proposed cuts to Amtrak."

Sherman said the upcoming months are crucial for Trump's budget plan, and with opposition forming against his proposal already, where the funding ultimately ends up could change.

"Presidents have immense power, but Congress has a key role in our democracy, as we saw with the health care bill that went down in flames despite the president's urging to pass it. We're only at the very beginning of funding a transportation bill," Sherman said.

The American Public Transportation Association opposes the budget proposal.

"A national rail passenger system is a vital part of our multimodal transportation network that is the backbone of our nation's economic competitiveness. The Chicago-New Orleans Amtrak service, along with other routes, are building blocks in the national transportation system that also provide important choices for travelers.  America needs to make its passenger rail system stronger, and curtailing key Amtrak routes is certainly not in the best interest of our nation," APTA Vice President of Policy Art Guzzetti said.

"Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently - we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 – but these services all require Federal investment," Amtrak President & CEO Wick Moorman. "As the budget process progresses, we look forward to working with President Trump, Secretary Chao, and Congress to ensure they understand the value of Amtrak's long distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation's transportation system."

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