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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Congress considers economic stimulus, energy-saving legislation that contains public transit component

Congress is preparing to adjourn for the year but has a few things left on its agenda. This week, congressional leaders are expected to give final consideration to legislation that would address the high cost of energy and stimulate the economy — and public transit agencies could benefit. 

The House recently passed The Comprehensive American Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899), which contains the Saving Energy through Public Transportation Act — legislation that passed the House as a stand-alone measure earlier this year.

The bill would authorize $1.7 billion for public transportation agencies in fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Agencies could use the funds to cover operating and capital costs to reduce fares, expand existing service, avoid service cuts or fare hikes caused by high fuel prices, acquire facilities or equipment to support the use of clean fuel or alternative fuel vehicles, and establish or expand rideshare or commuter match programs that provide alternatives to single occupancy vehicle use. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

The House and Senate also are developing an economic stimulus package that would appropriate immediate capital funds for "ready-to-go" infrastructure projects, including public transportation initiatives. Senate leaders are advancing a proposal that would provide up to $1.3 billion in capital funds for public transit infrastructure. The bill also would authorize an additional $400 million during the next two years for public transit agencies to invest in green facilities and vehicles.

Although the House and Senate are developing separate energy and economic stimulus bills, the two items may be combined into a single legislative package that would include elements of both proposals.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/22/2008