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U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) yesterday introduced a bill designed to streamline the federal government's environmental permitting process for rail infrastructure projects.The proposed "Track, Railroad and Infrastructure Network Act" (TRAIN) would add rail to the project permitting streamlining that was included in the MAP-21 surface transportation law that Congress passed in 2012, Blunt said in a press release."Freight rail traffic is growing, which means we need more infrastructure to move goods and services and ensure that rail remains a major component in our economic future," said Blunt. "This bipartisan bill will help ensure that burdensome federal regulations do not hamper investment and innovation in our nation’s freight and passenger rail industry."Streamlining the government's environmental permitting process for rail projects has been a goal of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), which endorsed the proposed legislation."Railroads have long encountered duplicative and burdensome permitting delays unrelated to environmental quality that have resulted in massive cost increases," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger in a statement. "In turn, this has increased the amount of capital necessary to spend and invest on projects designed to increase capacity, improve safety, hire new employees and provide efficient service to rail customers."
Such legislation would help the rail industry as it maps out $29 billion in infrastructure projects for 2015, Hamberger added.
The TRAIN bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.