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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

ASLRRA: House infrastructure bill offers short lines a 'mixed bag'


The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) last week unveiled its five-year, $547 billion surface-transportation reauthorization bill, dubbed the  Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America or INVEST in America Act.

The committee expects to mark up the bill on June 9.

"The benefits of transformative investments in our infrastructure are far-ranging: We can create and sustain good-paying jobs, many of which don't require a college degree, restore our global competitiveness, tackle climate change head-on, and improve the lives of all Americans through modern infrastructure that emphasizes mobility and access, and spurs our country’s long-term economic growth," said T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) in a press release.

The legislation would bring the nation’s aging rail infrastructure into the 21st century, said Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.).

"It provides $95 billion to upgrade intercity passenger rail systems and fund critical infrastructure projects, such as the Gateway Program. This investment in our nation’s future will encourage more Americans to use rail transportation, reduce traffic congestion, lower carbon emissions, and reduce the effects of climate change," Payne said.

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) officials said the legislation represents “an important step” toward achieving a “a large and transportation infrastructure investment” to support the U.S. economy and protect the environment.

However, the bill represents a “mixed bag” for short lines, said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.

"There are some beneficial funding opportunities, including an expanded CRISI grant program, but there are also a host of troubling and unnecessary operational mandates and multiple missed funding opportunities where short lines could help achieve the goals of a program, but are not included as eligible recipients," Baker said in a prepared statement.

The bill "doubles down on the same mandates, restrictive policies and costly diversions of infrastructure resources that led to last year's failure to provide long-term investments in America's roads and bridges,” said Republican lawmakers who serve on the T&I Committee and subcommittees.

"Instead of working with Republicans to find common ground on a bill that could earn strong bipartisan support — something our Senate counterparts did successfully last month — this bill moves even further to the left to appease the most progressive members in the majority’s party," the GOP representatives said in a statement.

The bill text can be read here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/7/2021