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House bills propose billions for passenger, freight roads


Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced legislation that would provide billions of dollars for freight and passenger railroads, including $2 billion for Amtrak.

Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska), James Oberstar (D-Minn.), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) introduced the Railroad Infrastructure Development and Expansion Act for the 21st Century (RIDE 21), which would provide railroads $60 billion to develop high-speed rail corridors.

Assigned bill number H.R. 1631, the legislation would enable states or interstate compacts to issue $12 billion in federal tax-exempt bonds and $12 billion in federal tax-credit bonds to improve high-speed rail infrastructure. During the next 10 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) would allocate $1.2 billion in private activity tax-exempt bonds, $1.2 billion in tax-credit bonds, and $100 million in general fund grants to states annually to develop corridors, acquire rolling stock, and install track and signal equipment.

In addition, H.R. 1631 would increase funding for the Railroad Rehabilitation & Infrastructure Financing loan program from $3.5 billion to $35 billion. Funding for regionals and short lines would increase from $1 billion to $7 billion, and interstate compacts and states would become eligible for loans.

"RIDE 21 is a historic commitment from this Congress to improve and expand our nation’s rail infrastructure, and develop a viable high-speed rail system," said Young in a prepared statement. "This bill addresses the increasing needs of our passenger and freight-rail systems, and the growing congestion problems that hinder our other transportation systems."

RIDE 21 originally was introduced in September 2001, then reintroduced in June 2003.

Meanwhile, the representatives also introduced the Amtrak Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 1630), which would provide $2 billion annually for Amtrak through 2008 to fund the railroad’s capital and operating expenses.

The legislation would require the national passenger railroad to submit comprehensive business plans and follow-up reports to the USDOT, and complete separate reports for capital project expenditures.

"Although serious disagreements still exist about Amtrak’s long-term management strategy and structure, there is a common understanding of the need for near-term funding," said Young. "This bill … will allow Amtrak to continue with critical work under its current five-year plan."

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More News from 4/18/2005