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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Efforts to pass FY2014 transportation appropriations bills collapse in House, Senate

Members of Congress left Washington, D.C., last week for their August break without passing their respective fiscal-year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bills.

Both the House and Senate bills would have fully funded the transit formula programs and federal highway programs at the MAP-21 authorized levels, but remain billions apart in agreement, according to a legislative alert issued by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) on Friday.

The bills that passed out of committee are $10 billion apart, with a $3.3 billion gap in U.S. Department of Transportation appropriations, APTA officials said.

The Senate bill would provide higher funding for Federal Transit Administration capital investment grants, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority grants, Amtrak and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, they said.

House leaders pulled their bill from consideration last week after it appeared the legislation didn't have enough votes to pass.

Earlier in the week, APTA officials wrote to House Appropriations THUD Subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) to express concern about the House bill's proposed prohibition of the use of funds for individual high-speed rail projects, and for specific actions by the Surface Transportation Board regarding such projects.

Meanwhile, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) wrote in her Aug. 2 blog that the Republican-controlled House didn't have enough votes to pass its THUD bill because the bill's proposed cuts to Amtrak funding — 21 percent for operations and 34 percent for capital and debt service — were too high even for some Republicans to approve.

"How embarrassing — Republicans forcing Republicans to pull a Republican bill — and here's why: Amtrak is vital to 46 states and D.C., carries 31 million passengers every year and employs 20,000 people ... in good middle-class jobs," Holmes Norton wrote. "Americans are flocking to Amtrak."

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More News from 8/5/2013