U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bipartisan measure to improve passenger rail safety, reauthorize Amtrak services and improve existing rail infrastructure. The bill, “Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act,” could receive a vote by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as early as next week.
“To help the United States compete globally, we must invest in a safe and reliable passenger rail system that Americans can depend on,” Booker said. “But too often our rail system falls short due to a lack of adequate infrastructure investment. Our bipartisan bill takes important steps to improve rail safety in the wake of last month’s tragic derailment, modernize our aging passenger rail network, and maximize investments in infrastructure through improved financing and grant programs. The legislation allows Amtrak to reinvest Northeast Corridor profits back into improving Northeast Corridor infrastructure, including throughout New Jersey. This will help advance critical but long overdue initiatives like building the Gateway Project which adds a new tunnel under the Hudson River and replacing the declining Portal Bridge.”
The legislation would authorize Amtrak for the next four years at an average $1.65 billion a year. Additionally, $570 million in total grant funding would be made available every year. These competitive grants would go toward programs related to capital assistance, service enhancement and restoration, alleviating rail congestion and the Northeast Corridor.
Highlights of the legislation include increasing safety; leveraging private sector investment and facilitating increased competition; cutting red tape to make taxpayers dollars go further; improving existing infrastructure and services; demanding accountability, transparency and efficiency; and empowering states.