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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Transit advocacy groups to Feds: 'Finance passenger-rail development'


While the Senate was making a statement of sorts by approving a spending-bill amendment that would restore Amtrak's proposal for $1.2 billion in fiscal-year 2003 subsidies, 47 passenger-rail advocacy groups issued a statement of their own.

On Jan. 16, the eclectic collection of state officials, unions, corporations and citizens groups announced they'd signed on to the American Passenger Rail Agreement, which advocates the development and preservation of a nationwide, interconnected passenger-rail system. The pact also calls on Congress and the Bush Administration to provide passenger rail with funding, policy development and oversight comparable to what highway, civil aviation, transit and waterway programs currently receive.

The agreement also encourages the federal government to establish a dedicated, multi-year federal capital-funding program for intercity passenger rail, patterned after the existing federal highway, airport and mass-transit programs. And it urges the Federal Railroad Administration ("or a similar agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation") to develop, fund and oversee a new federal railroad-development policy.

The organizations, too, solicit Congress to provide full funding for Amtrak while a more advanced passenger rail system is being designed so the national passenger railroad can keep its nationwide fleet of trains operating and improve service.

Signees include the National Conference of State Legislatures, civil-engineering firm Parsons-Brinckerhoff, the States for Passenger Rail Coalition, and groups ranging from National Corridors Initiative to the Washington Association of Railroad Passengers.

"The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, aviation programs and Amtrak all are up for reauthorization by Congress this year," said Laura Kliewer, director of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, in a prepared statement. "From Boston to the state of Washington, from the South to the Midwest, we are committed to educating members of Congress and the administration on the importance of passenger rail to our national transportation system, and to seeing a revitalized, efficient, modern passenger rail system realized."

Added Rick Harnish, president of the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition: "Designing and building transportation infrastructure is a long-term process that requires steady, predictable funding over a multi-year time frame. Annual congressional appropriations are too unpredictable to fund the civil-engineering improvements we need to make passenger train service fast, frequent and reliable."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/17/2003