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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

TCU's Scardelletti: Senate should restore FTA funding levels in transportation bill, USDOT should provide TIGER IV grant for Metra bridge project

Transportation Communications Union/IAM President Bob Scardelletti recently sent a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) requesting that Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding formula levels be restored in the Senate’s surface transportation reauthorization bill.
The new proposed formula would drastically reduce funding for the Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC), perhaps by as much as 83 percent, Scardelletti wrote.

“Unlike other FTA recipient railroads, the Alaska Railroad has only been allowed to count 60 percent of its passenger track for FTA funding formulas,” he wrote, adding that the bill would cut that percentage even more, to about 10 percent. “No other passenger railroad is given such a harsh five-sixths cut in the bill.”

The reduction would prompt ARRC to shrink its workforce by about one-third, as well as cause a default on certain FTA-approved bonds and a “dramatic cut in essential rail passenger service,” Scardelletti wrote.
“My request on behalf of our union workers is that a way be found to prevent such a drastic cut to the Alaska Railroad’s formula funds,” he said.

Scardelletti also sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood voicing support for Metra’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery IV, or TIGER IV, grant program application for the MD-W Fox River Bridge project.

Built in 1881, the 500-foot bridge accommodates 49 Metra and six Canadian Pacific trains daily. The structure is nearing the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced, Scardelletti wrote. In addition, the bridge is the only single-track segment on the Milwaukee District/West Line (MD-W) between Elgin and downtown Chicago, and causes a rail traffic bottleneck at either end of the structure, he said. The new bridge would feature two tracks controlled by a modern signal system.

“The newly installed infrastructure will eliminate the local speed restriction, improve the line’s reliability and operational flexibility, reduce maintenance costs and help ensure the continued efficient operation of the Chicago region’s rail network,” said Scardelletti.

TIGER IV program applications are due to the U.S. Department of Transportation today; grant awards will be announced in the next several months.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/19/2012