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Rail News: Passenger Rail

HSRIA is in the House

Having been introduced in the Senate as S.250 in early February, the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) June 27 entered the House. More than 120 members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored and introduced the act, designed to help alleviate some highway and airway gridlock.

"Today, almost all of our national travel burden is carried by aviation and highways, when a healthier and more efficient balance could be struck in many communities with the development of passenger rail," said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer George Warrington in a prepared statement. "For relatively modest investment in high-speed passenger rail, we can get more ‘bang for the buck’ while we try to ease the congestion that threatens our mobility and quality of life."

The bill would authorize bond financing of up to $12 billion over 10 years. Proceeds would be used to upgrade rails, build high-speed lines, purchase high-speed rolling stock, and eliminate or improve grade crossings. States wanting high-speed rail lines would be required to contribute 20 percent of the cost; in return, they would receive tax-related benefits.

Currently, 11 areas have been federally designated as high-speed rail corridors to be developed. Wisconsin Department of Transportation — one of nine states comprising the Chicago Hub — June 12 published its environmental assessment regarding the re-introduction of passenger rail between Milwaukee and Madison, Wis.

"Wisconsin is in an excellent position to be first in line for funding under the High Speed Rail Investment Act, when passed, said Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Terry Mulcahy in a prepared statement. "This Environmental Assessment shows that we are making great strides in planning the service in conjunction with Amtrak, the railroads and local communities. And we need the federal share to proceed."

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More News from 6/29/2001