Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced a multi-year bill to authorize funding to Amtrak and support passenger rail, dubbed the Railroad Reform, Enhancement and Efficiency Act. It would be the successor to the existing rail authorization, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.
In response, T4America Chairman John Robert Smith, a former chair of the Amtrak board, released this statement:
“Senators Wicker and Booker are doing the nation a great service in crafting a bill that ensures Americans will see continued and improving passenger rail service in the years to come. Passenger rail service is vital and growing in popularity, and keeping the system working and safe requires investment. The Wicker-Booker bill embraces both those ideas. It authorizes necessary funding to start to return the system to a state of good repair and make targeted investments to improve service.”
In addition, this bill would:
- Sustainably grow funding authorization levels to Amtrak, which would enable the nation’s passenger rail corporation to address the long ignored need to seriously invest in our passenger rail system and its supporting infrastructure
- Create a Rail Service Capital and Operating grant program, funded at $350 million next year and rising to $900 million in FY2019, to assist regions in planning and deploying new or expanded passenger rail service;
- Unlock billions in private capital to develop transit oriented developments that support passenger rail stations, service, and increased ridership potential through the underutilized Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program — a $35 billion program that provides direct loans and loan guarantees to finance development of public and private railroad infrastructure.
- Ensure the Amtrak Board of Directors is representative of the entire nation’s interests by guaranteeing seats for voices representing State-Supported and Long-Distance corridors, as well as the Northeast Corridor.
Transportation for America strongly supports Senators Booker and Wicker in their proposed authorization for passenger rail and look forward to its passage from the Senate Commerce Committee.