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The U.S. House yesterday passed the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, H.R. 2, a massive infrastructure bill that includes $500 billion to reauthorize surface transportation programs over the next five years.
At the center of the legislation is the Democrats' INVEST in America Act, which has received mixed reviews from the railroad industry. The legislation would succeed the current surface transportation law known as the FAST Act, which will expire Sept. 30.
The legislation would mandate policies that would "ignore the industry's tremendous safety and efficiency advancements over the years," said Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Jefferies in a prepared statement.
"During these unprecedented times, Congress has a unique opportunity to execute a forward-looking bipartisan vision for this nation's infrastructure that would both aid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and make critical investments for generations to come," Jefferies said. "The House legislation misses the mark."
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker said the legislation contains several beneficial sections for the short-line industry, as well as numerous provisions that would hinder the ability of short lines to serve their customers.
"However, we understand that this is just a step in a lengthy process which will include more opportunities for stakeholder input and bipartisan agreement before the bill becomes law," Baker said in a press release.
Although freight-rail advocates expressed concerns about elements in the bill, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Paul Skoutelas offered praise for it including $105 billion for public transportation and $60 billion for commuter rail, Amtrak and other high-performance rail service.
"This forward-thinking investment in public transportation and passenger rail helps our communities meet growing mobility demands, create family-wage jobs, expand U.S. manufacturing and supply chains, and grow the economy," Skoutelas said in a press release.
The Republican-led Senate is unlikely to take up the bill, which includes goals for addressing climate change, $130 billion for schools, $100 billion for rural broadband and $100 billion for affordable housing.
"This so-called infrastructure bill would siphon billions in funding from actual infrastructure to funnel into climate change policies," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), MarketWatch.com reported.