Amtrak Financial and Planning Reforms
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 included several provisions intended to improve the transparency and management of Amtrak funding, target federal investments in rail infrastructure and state of good repair needs, and enhance project planning and coordination.They are discussed in more detail according to the following FAST Act sections (§):
- Amtrak Account Structure (§11201)
- Amtrak Grant Process (§11202)
- Amtrak 5-Year Service Line Plans and Asset Line Plans (§11203)
Amtrak Account Structure (§11201)
Prior to the FAST Act, FRA obligated Amtrak’s annual federal funding through two grants: an operating grant and a capital/debt grant.
The FAST Act requires Amtrak to maintain separate accounts for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and National Network. The National Network encompasses Amtrak’s State-Supported and Long Distance routes, as well as other non-NEC activities. This new account structure is designed to focus NEC appropriations, revenues, and other funds with projects and activities related to the NEC, and similarly National Network funds with National Network-related activities, while eliminating the transfer of NEC surplus to offset losses in other service lines.
The FAST Act describes the goals of the account structure as:
- To promote effective use of and stewardship by Amtrak of Amtrak revenues, Federal, State, and third party investments, appropriations, grants and other forms of financial assistance, and other sources of funds
- To enhance the transparency of the assignment of revenues and costs among Amtrak’s service lines
In 2016, FRA and Amtrak established the account and reporting structure shown below:
Amtrak Account and Reporting Structure
For more information on the account structure definitions and reporting methodology, refer to FRA’s Amtrak Account Structure Overview document. This document summarizes and updates a memorandum that FRA provided to Congress in May 2016 that defined the Amtrak account structure, and it also establishes a link to FRA’s June 2018 assessment on account structure implementation.
Amtrak publishes account structure reports in their Monthly Performance Reports, which can be downloaded from their Reports & Documents webpage.
Amtrak Grant Process (§11202)
The FAST Act also directed FRA to establish new procedures for Amtrak’s annual federal funding to support the NEC and National Network accounts. Amtrak’s grant requests for annual federal funding must:
- Describe projected operating and capital costs for the upcoming fiscal year (FY) for NEC and National Network activities, in comparison to the prior fiscal year and actual financial performance
- Describe the capital projects to be funded with cost estimates and a timetable for project completion
- Assess Amtrak’s financial condition
FAST Act - Amtrak Authorization
For more information on the Amtrak grant process, see Federal Grants to Amtrak.
Amtrak 5-Year Service Line Plans and Asset Line Plans (§11203)
The FAST Act requires Amtrak to develop 5-Year Service Line Plans and 5-Year Asset Line Plans. These plans replace Amtrak’s previous requirement to develop a 5-year financial plan, and are intended to help better inform Amtrak’s decision-making process and more clearly communicate with Congress, States, passengers and partners on Amtrak’s business priorities and financial performance.
The first year of the 5-year Plans forms the basis for Amtrak’s General and Legislative Annual Report to Congress (available on Amtrak’s website). Also accessible online is Amtrak’s FY 2019-2023 Service Line Plans. Asset Line Plans will be first due on February 15, 2019.