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6/25/2003



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Revamped RIDE 21 bill reintroduced to Congress


Rep Don Young (R-Alaska), Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) recently reintroduced Railroad Infrastructure Development and Expansion Act for the 21st Century (RIDE 21)(H.R. 2571) to Congress that would provide $60 billion for high-speed rail, and freight- and passenger-rail infrastructure projects.



The bill also would authorize $2 billion annually for Amtrak during the next three years.



RIDE 21 would establish authority for states or interstate compacts to issue $12 billion in federally tax-exempt bonds and $12 billion in federal tax-credit bonds for high-speed passenger railroad projects.



"RIDE 21 is a historic commitment from this Congress to improve and expand our nation’s rail infrastructure and develop a viable high-speed rail system," said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Young in a prepared statement. "This bill addresses the increasing needs of our passenger and freight rail systems and the growing congestion problems that hinder our other transportation systems."



The bill would give U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta authority to approve overall corridor design, assign preference to certain projects and designate tax-exempt bonds. States would be required to submit annual reports on the status of bonds and bond-funded projects.



Extending through fiscal-year 2011, RIDE 21 would emphasize corridor development — which includes acquiring rolling stock, and installing track and signal equipment — and provide $100 million per year in general fund grants subject to appropriation. State and interstate compacts, as well as magnetic levitation system, would be eligible for assistance.



The bill also would expand the Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Financing Program’s funding authority from $3.5 billion to $35 billion.



By proposing Amtrak funding, legislators believe the national passenger railroad would be able to partner with states to help with high-speed corridor improvements.



When it was originally introduced by Young in September 2001, RIDE 21 (H.R. 2950) included $71 billion in railroad infrastructure expansion and improvements — $36 million in tax-exempt bonds for high speed projects during 10 years, $35 billion in loans and loan guarantees for freight and commuter-rail improvements, and $35 million per year through 2009 for planning and technology development.


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