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Rail groups praise Senate passage of infrastructure bill

By | August 11, 2021

Bill, with $66 billion for rail — including $58 billion for Amtrak — and more than $100 billion for transit, now goes to House

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Trains Washington Watch logoWASHINGTON — The Senate’s passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill drew praise from a variety of rail observers and other interested parties Tuesday. The bill includes $66 billion for rail-related spending, including $58 billion for Amtrak.

Amtrak board chairman Tony Coscia said in a statement that the bill represents more than just this country’s greatest level of investment in Amtrak and infrastructure in the past 50 years. It also highlights America’s commitment to updating the rail network and improving the passenger experience for years to come.” Coscia says the passenger railroad “is ready to rebuild core infrastructure, replace equipment and, with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and state partners, bring more Amtrak service to more people across the nation, creating thousands of new jobs and reducing America’s carbon footprint.”

The bill’s five-year grant authorization for Amtrak offers $1.1 billion to $1.57 billion annually for Northeast Corridor operations and $2.2 billion to $3 billion each year for national network funding.

It also includes a variety of reforms, including redefining the makeup of the Amtrak board to include the company’s CEO, rather than its president; requires station agents at stations which saw an average of 40 passengers board or disembark during fiscal 2017; and increases oversight of long-distance route and service changes, as well as Amtrak’s accounting practices.

Chuck Baker, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, said in a statement that the legislation “recognizes small business freight railroads as an integral and essential piece of the freight rail network” and “marks unprecedented levels of investment in programs that are critical to our freight industry – like [grant programs] CRISI, RAISE, and INFRA – providing our members enormously expanded opportunities to compete for investment grants to implement new technology, upgrade aging track, rehabilitate bridges, and initiate important safety measures that allow us to better serve our customers.” Baker urged the U.S. House of Representatives to “work to swifely move this legislation to the President’s desk.”

Association of American Railroads CEO Ian Jefferies, in a statement issued Aug. 2, when the current version of the bill was introduced, said, “This forward-looking legislation will make long-overdue investments in modernizing the nation’s public infrastructure, improving safety and supporting economic growth well into the future.”

The 2,702-page bill, available in full here, also includes $106.9 billion for public transit, an increase of 63% from current levels. American Public Transportation Association Paul P. Skoutelas said prior to its passage that the bill “offers a wealth of opportunities for multimodal investments that will include public transit and passenger rail as essential elements.” An APTA update offers extensive details of the transit funding.










15 thoughts on “Rail groups praise Senate passage of infrastructure bill

  1. Woefully short on specifics. 1.2 Trillion dollars will be spent on “infra-structure and Americans will still be inched across the McKinely era Delair Bridge spanning the Delaware river. If not now when will it ever be replaced.

  2. Gas prices were cheap a year ago when there was no demand. This is not a conspiracy.
    And of course we should be switching to electric cars, though living in a row house so far that’s impractical for us, so our hybrid is the best we dan do now. The bill has money for expanding fast charging stations, so it would work for those of us who can’t charge at home.

    1. Cutting off production was bound to raise prices. Gas prices were very acceptable before Covid. As I look back on those old times, the economy was in good shape too.
      From where do we get the electricity for all these cars? I believe the free market will eventually create electric cars that are feasible for everybody if we are patient. Mandating diesels when 4-4-0s were cutting edge would have been foolish and counter-productive.

  3. Look for oil prices to rise to compensate for the overspending by the US. Get ready for some EPA crackdowns on frack oil to maintain the high prices. It’s all about social engineering to force people off ICE autos and trucks. It’s the same rule book the Obama Administration tried but couldn’t react in time to stop the fracking. (gas hit $4/gal during his term) Trump let the fracking move on and the prices dropped and our currency stayed stable. Now look for the opposite.

  4. Meanwhile, as of August 22, 2021, federal government debt has reached a mind boggling $28.5 trillion. It is 107% of GDP, which is as high as it was at the end of WWII. Add in state and local government debt, and the total is $31.7 trillion. But this is not the end. On top of government debt Americans owe $8.3 trillion in personal debt, i.e., mortgage debt, credit card debt, student loan debt, etc.

    Add up all the debt, which at the end of day will be paid by American’s, and it averages $362,201 per household. And that is 5.3 times the median household income in the United States.

    So, tell me one more time. Why should the taxpayers, who are burden with an outsized debt, underwrite the cost of better eats and beverages on Amtrak’s long-distance trains? Or underwrite the cost of a union initiative to staff the station at Marshall, TX, when it has done quite well without an agent?

  5. Happy about a lot of this, but particularly getting rid of that crazy rule about food and beverages must break even short term.

  6. Hey, I’m all for infrastructure improvements, including rail. Perhaps people praising this bill ought to find out what else is in it. Hint: Strong stomach advised.

    1. $66 B’s for rail in a trillion dollar bill. Where the he// is the rest of the money going?

    2. Competitive Rail grants (CRISI), rail crossing safety grants, short line grants/tax breaks I believe

    3. From the white house press release on rail investments
      ” $5 billion for rail improvement and safety grants, and $3 billion for grade crossing safety improvements.” 58 + 8 =66 million

    4. “From the white house press release on rail investments
      ” $5 billion for rail improvement and safety grants, and $3 billion for grade crossing safety improvements.” 58 + 8 =66 million”

      Is that “S5 billion” quote a typo? Was it supposed to be “$58 billion”?

  7. Responding to George, this is from the Rail Passengers Association News:

    Sec. 22204. Increasing Oversight of Changes to Amtrak Long-Distance Routes and Other Intercity Services: Requires Amtrak to include information regarding any change or plans to change a route, frequency of service, or station stops in its annual operations report and its general and legislative annual report to Congress.

    Sec. 22206. Improved Oversight of Amtrak Spending: Requires Amtrak to provide a much greater level of detail on its spending in annual reports to Congress, including:

    Categorize and identify the amount of funds each service type receives and spends by operating expenses, debt service, capital expenses, and contingency levels;
    Describe the operations, services, programs, projects, and other activities to be funded, by category;
    Provide the estimated projected scope, schedule, and budget necessary to complete each project and program;
    Describe the performance measures used to quantify expected and actual project outcomes and benefits; and
    Describe the status of efforts to improve Amtrak’s safety culture.
    Sec. 22208. Passenger Experience Enhancement: Eliminates requirement that food and beverage services on trains may only be provided if their revenues break even during a fiscal year. This section also directs Amtrak to establish a working group—including nonprofit organizations representing Amtrak passengers—to develop recommendations to improve Amtrak’s onboard food and beverage services.

    Sec. 22210. Protecting Amtrak Routes through Rural Communities: Prohibits Amtrak from discontinuing, reducing the frequency of, suspending, or substantially altering the route on any segment of any long-distance route if Amtrak receives adequate funding for that route.

  8. Could someone who has researched it detail what “increases oversight of long-distance route and service changes, as well as Amtrak’s accounting practices” means?

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