A bill that would authorize $13 billion for Amtrak and makes provisions for high-speed rail improvements was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and is likely to pass through the Senate with a positive vote as well.
The legislation combines the substance of Amtrak reauthorization legislation that passed both houses earlier this year (H.R. 6003) with an improved version of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007 (H.R. 2095), which originally passed the House in 2007.
The five-year authorization includes funds for state intercity passenger rail grants and high-speed rail corridor grants. It also includes changes to Amtrak's financial accounting system and a five-year financing plan to improve accountability.
Under the rail safety improvement provisions of the bill, $1.625 billion is authorized over five years for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The bill requires and authorizes funds for risk-based deployment of positive train control systems (PTC) that focuses on passenger and commuter routes and main line freight routes that transport toxic inhalants. The bill also requires PTC deployment on these routes by the end of 2015, and requires interoperability to ensure that passenger and commuter rail, which travels over more than one rail carrier's track, can safely move from one system to another.