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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Biden visits Cleveland's transit agency to urge federal infrastructure spending

Vice President Joe Biden visited Cleveland yesterday to talk about transit rail and the need for Congress to pass a long-term bill to fund the nation's transportation infrastructure.

Biden used the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's (GCRTA) central rail complex as a backdrop for his speech, in which he called on Congress to pass the Obama administration's $302 billion transportation bill. The current law, known as MAP-21, is scheduled to expire Sept. 30, but the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for highway and transit projects across the nation, is expected to run out of money even sooner.

"If our Congress doesn't act soon, the funding that pays for our transportation projects will run out," Biden said in a prepared statement issued after his speech. "The Department of Transportation won't have a dime to go toward more than 112,000 projects happening around the country. Nearly 700,000 good jobs would be at risk. And some states are already slowing down projects because they're anticipating this inaction."

Biden also highlighted federal investment in the improvement and renewal of transit-rail infrastructure at GCRTA's rail complex. His visit and the federal investment in GCRTA's transit-rail service prompted praise from Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Richard Harnish.

"Investment in upgrading railroads is a huge generator of jobs and revenue — so it's a linchpin of economic recovery in Ohio and all across the region," Harnish said in a press release.

The Cleveland rail complex would be an even greater asset if Amtrak were able to expand to daylight service from Cleveland to Chicago and New York City, Harnish said. The trains, which run between the two urban hubs, offer only late-night service at Cleveland, which limits its usefulness for business and recreational travel.

"The fact is, the Midwest urgently needs daylight trains to connect local economies and bring people together," he said. "Midwestern cities depend on fast, convenient and affordable rail service to drive business."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/15/2014