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4/1/2009



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Rail-funding bill makes strides in Texas Senate


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Legislative efforts to pump state dollars into the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund cleared their first hurdle on March 30. A Texas Senate committee passed a bill and sent the measure to the full Senate.

The bill would tap into existing transportation-related fees to allocate about $90 million annually toward the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund. The funds would leverage bonding authority to help finance freight- and passenger-rail projects in the state.

The bill also would establish an advisory group — comprising rail stakeholders appointed by the chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee and House Transportation Committee — to guide the Texas Department of Transportation on rail planning and funding.

Rail funding would kick in only if state highway funding increases from one fiscal year to the next.
 
“This is not a roads-versus-rail debate. Roads and rail must work in tandem, and our state’s roadways certainly deserve at least the same level of financial support that they’re getting now,” said Bruce Todd, executive director of the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Association, in a prepared statement. “The goal of financing the rail relocation and improvement fund is to upgrade our state’s aging freight- and passenger-rail infrastructure.”
 
In 2005, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment to create the fund. However, state legislators have not approved any appropriations.


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