WASHINGTON — Democrats on the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Friday proposed a $547 billion plan including $109 billion for transit and $95 billion for rail, with $32 billion for Amtrak.
The rail portion of the group’s Invest in America Act also includes funding for corridor planning and high speed rail development, grade-crossing projects, safety inspectors, and a federal blocked-crossing program which would enforce a 10-minute blocked-crossing limit. The transit section would include funding to reduce maintenance backlogs and increase service; increase funding for rural transit by more than 50%; create a new reduced-fare program for low-income riders; and create new programs to address issues such as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A fact sheet says the plan includes $343 billion for roads, bridges, and safety. The full 1,249-page text is here. Committee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a press release that the bill “puts a core piece of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan into legislative text—seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to move our transportation planning out of the 1950s and toward our clean energy future.”
The website The Hill reports committee Republicans released a statement blasting the bill, saying Democrats “never serious considered incorporating Republican priorities,” creating legislation that “prioritizes the Green New Deal to an extent that cripples the real infrastructure improvements communities across the country need.”
American Public Transportation Association President Paul P. Skoutelas issued a statement saying his organization “strongly supports the bill and its critical investments for surface transportation infrastructure,” saying it would “put American infrastructure on footing to compete with any country in the world.”
Also applauding the bill is the Rail Passengers Association; its president, Jim Mathews, said in a statement that the legislation “has the ambition and the scope to expand and increase rail service in the nation’s most congested urban corridors while simultaneously ensuring that rural and small towns have access to reliable, quality trains, even creating transit set asides for tribal lands and rural communities.”
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker called the bill “a mixed bag” for small railroads. In a statement issued Monday morning, Baker said, “There are some beneficial funding opportunities, including an expanded CRISI [Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements] grant program, but there are also a host of troubling and unnecessary operational mandates and multiple missed funding opportunities where short lines could help achieve the goals of a program, but are not included as eligible recipients.”
— Updated at 7:05 a.m. CDT with statement from ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.