Elected Leaders Push for Transformational Investment in Rail
July 23, 2021
Congressional Leaders Push for Transformational Investment in Rail
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) continues to slowly advance its way through the Senate, with key negotiators attempting to find a middle path between progressive demands to invest less money in highway expansion and more in expanding passenger rail and transit, and conservative demands to reduce non-highway spending levels in the package.
However, there has been a push in the Senate this week to dramatically increase the base level of funding for passenger rail in the infrastructure bill. Led by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the group of is pushing to significantly increase the current funding levels for rail, reported to be at $66 billion over five years.
“While we appreciate the work that has gone into crafting the bipartisan agreement proposed by President Biden and recently endorsed by Senators from both parties, the funding levels agreed to as part of this framework are not sufficient to properly upgrade America’s aging rail system,” wrote the group. “We have before us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the lives of millions of Americans—to bring American infrastructure into the 21st century, and to create a cleaner, greener, more interconnected nation. Therefore, we urge you to draft a budget resolution that enables Congress to significantly increase investment in passenger rail programs so that we can deliver high-speed rail to American commuters and businesses.”
In the House, a similar effort is being led by House Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio, who argue that the Senate’s bipartisan deal is too incremental to deliver the transformational investment needed in the U.S.
“The INVEST in America Act delivers meaningful, transformational policy solutions,” wrote the members in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “For the first time, the bill provides resources for states and communities to tackle transportation greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of U.S. carbon pollution, and to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis that are occurring today. It employs a ‘fix-it-first’ approach, ensuring that states maintain a state of good repair and consider affordable and efficient alternatives to reduce congestion. It makes a long-overdue commitment to expanding and improving the U.S. passenger rail network—providing Americans with better access to one of the most climate-friendly transportation options. It supports the repair and rebuilding of crumbling bridges, and provides dedicated resources for major bridge projects, off-system bridge repairs, and critical Tribal and rural bridges. The bill strengthens our commitment to safety for all users by reforming federal design standards, building complete streets, and investing in safety measures that will save lives on our roadways.”
Senators are asking that passenger rail be funded at levels equivalent to what highways will receive. With the NEC alone requiring $42 billion to bring the corridor into a state of good repair (which does not include any new capacity), increasing funding above $66 billion will be key to ensuring that we see new and improved service outside of the northeast.
The bill will be finalized any day now. Please take a moment to call your Senators and ask them to support a transformational investment in passenger rail!
Call your Senators today and tell them “We have a once-in-a generation opportunity to transform our nation’s infrastructure – please ensure that trains are a big part of the package!
"We would not be in the position we’re in if it weren’t for the advocacy of so many of you, over a long period of time, who have believed in passenger rail, and believe that passenger rail should really be a part of America’s intermodal transportation system."
Secretary Ray LaHood, U.S. Department of Transportation
2011 Spring Council Meeting