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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Sen. Boxer calls on Congress to pass a surface transportation bill


In a speech delivered in Riverside County, Calif., yesterday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the U.S. Senate committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), called on Congress to pass a bipartisan surface transportation bill that would rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems.

Boxer, whose committee in November unanimously passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill to reauthorize surface transportation programs for two years, chose a completed grade separation project in Riverside County to underscore the need for Congress to agree on a bill that “will jumpstart the economy, create jobs, reduce traffic congestion and improve safety,” she said in a prepared statement.

The $53 million grade separation involved lowering Magnolia Avenue so that a two-track railroad bridge could be built over the road. Forty-seven freight trains and 12 passenger trains use that segment of the rail line daily, while about 25,000 vehicles travel on the street each day. The project reduced traffic congestion by eliminating the more than two hours of delays per day when road traffic stopped while trains passed through a crossing, Boxer said, adding that the project also improved safety and created 560 jobs.

The work on Magnolia Avenue, which was funded by state and local dollars, is an example of how such investments can improve the transportation system and improve employment, she said.

“MAP-21 will enable states and local governments across the country to build grade separation projects through a new freight program that will increase the efficiency of the movement of goods,” Boxer said. “MAP-21 will also substantially increase funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program to address critical safety issues at rail crossings.”

In addition, her bill would “significantly expand and strengthen the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, stretching federal dollars to fund local projects more than ever before,” she said.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the television news program Meet the Press that “passing a surface transportation bill is one of the most important things Congress can do this year to rebuild our economy and create jobs,” Boxer said.

“Transportation stakeholders from across the country are behind us, and next week they will formally call on Congress to quickly pass a transportation bill,” she said. “Hundreds of organizations across the spectrum have already signed onto a letter calling for action on transportation investment.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/19/2012