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Light-rail excerpt cut from surface transportation commission's report, National Corridors Initiative says


Last week, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission released its report to Congress citing recommendations to resolve the nation’s mounting transportation problems. But the final report was missing a key section that advocated the need for electric railways, according to non-profit passenger-rail support group the National Corridors Initiative (NCI).

Written by commission member Paul Weyrich, founder of the Free Congress Foundation, the light-rail section of the report was adopted by a 9-3 majority vote of the commission, but Bush Administration staffers edited it out of the final version, according to NCI.

“Public transportation, especially in the form of electric railways, must and will play a significantly larger role in Americans’ mobility,” and that “federal transportation policy should not only accommodate, but encourage this development,” the omitted excerpt stated.

The section called for rewriting Federal Transit Administration (FTA) criteria for electric rail funding request evaluations to take into account development impact and remove criteria, such as travel time. The segment also suggested returning the Small Starts funding program to its original purpose of funding new streetcar systems.

In addition, federal support for electrified rail transit should be made automatic, based on the population of the area served, according to the excerpt. For example, a city with a population of 100,000 might automatically qualify to build a streetcar system and a city of 250,000 could qualify to build a light-rail system. FTA approval would not be required for proposals fitting each of the categories.

“It is disappointing that … someone without ever asking me would see to it to away with these important policy considerations,” Weyrich said in a statement he provided to NCI.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/22/2008