Passenger rail reform bill passes first hurdle

Posted on June 25, 2015


U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced their bipartisan measure to increase passenger rail safety, reauthorize Amtrak services, and improve existing rail infrastructure has been unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“Investing in our nation’s rail system is important to economic growth,” Wicker said. “It connects businesses, moves goods, and transports Americans across the country. I am pleased that the committee has put forward a resounding vote in favor of our bill. This measure prioritizes safety, enhances rail infrastructure, encourages competition and makes smart use of taxpayer dollars.”

“Today’s vote brings us one step closer to passing a bill that reinvests in vital rail infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor, enhances safety, and protects workers,” Booker said. “I now urge Senate leaders to pass this bipartisan bill that invests in a safe and reliable passenger rail system that Americans can depend on. Time and time again our rail system falls short due to a lack of adequate infrastructure investment- we can and must do better. We must quickly build on this bipartisan effort by bringing this legislation to the Senate for a full vote.”

The “Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act,” S. 1626, 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, efforts to alleviate 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.

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