WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department said Friday it released $1 billion in emergency funding for U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Amtrak said last week that daily ridership was down 96% and future bookings were 95% lower. Amtrak has suspended its high-speed Acela service and cut about 50% of daily train trips nationwide. Congress approved the funding last month as part of a $2.2 trillion bill to address the coronavirus.
The department is preparing to award $10 billion in grant funds to U.S. airports that was also approved by Congress and could announce funding as early as next week. Last week, the department announced awards of $25 billion to public transit systems, including $5.4 billion to the New York City area
The funds will help Amtrak “maintain service for its passengers when the economy recovers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Last year, Amtrak set records for ridership, revenue and financial performance, including 32.5 million customer trips, a year-over-year increase of 800,000 passengers. Amtrak reported a loss of $29.8 million in its last fiscal year compared with a loss of $170.6 million in the prior fiscal year.
Of the $1 billion, $492 million will go to the northeast corridor and $526 million for the national network. Amtrak Senior Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner said in a statement that “with this necessary financial support, we will come out of this crisis ready to continue growing ridership and improving our performance.”