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6/19/2020



Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

AAR, ASLRRA offer mixed reviews of T&I's updated INVEST Act


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The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) yesterday passed its $494 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill after a two-day markup session. 

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act was approved by a party-line vote of 35 to 25.

The bill, which addresses surface transportation maintenance and construction needs, also emphasizes "putting the nation on a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector," Democrats on the committee said in a press release.

Rail industry leaders had mixed reactions to the legislation that advanced out of the committee.

Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials said the legislation contains numerous harmful provisions that would "hamstring" the industry for several years.

"Freight railroads are extremely disappointed in the deeply partisan, backward-looking rail title of the bill," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Jefferies. "If enacted, this legislation would undermine the ongoing modernization of the rail industry through outdated operational restrictions and capacity constraints, weakening the industry's ability to serve its customers and the economy."

Among AAR's concerns in the bill are a two-person crew mandate; an effective prohibition of liquefied natural gas by rail; a yardmaster hours of service provision; an effective prohibition on certain crew operations; and a 10-minute blocked crossing standard.

Meanwhile, the bill contains some provisions that would help short lines serve thousands of shippers in small towns and rural areas, said American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President Chuck Baker in a press release.

"But there are also unfortunately pieces that would hinder our ability to bring their products to bigger domestic markets at urban centers and global markets through our port connections," Baker said.

ASLRRA officials highlighted "beneficial" aspects of the legislation, including:

  • a significant increase in the authorized funding levels for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, a competitive grant program that the short-line industry relies on for safety and service upgrades to old, inherited track infrastructure, while maintaining the rural set-aside. The bill also would remove preferential treatment for applications that provide more than 50 percent in nonfederal funding for the project. The association remain concerned about the inclusion of additional nonfreight rail applications and setting aside much of the program for mega projects;
  • no changes to the current truck size and weight standards on the nation's highways, other than a small, "unfortunate" 2,000-pound exemption for electric trucks;
  • support of state freight investments through the National Highway Freight Program;
  • authorization of funding for safety culture assessments and training.

Like AAR, the ASLRRA is concerned with requiring two-person crews on railroads and certain trips, as well other aspects of the bill. Those concerns can be read by clicking on this link.

 

 



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