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New funding model needed for intercity passenger rail, coalition says


Intercity passenger-rail service should be funded in the same manner as roads and airlines to strengthen and expand the U.S. rail system, States for Passenger Rail Coalition members say.

The coalition is continuing to lobby for legislation that would provide passenger railroads the same 80/20 federal/state match offered for highway, aviation and airport projects. The funds would help passenger-rail agencies pay for track and signal improvements, and obtain equipment and rolling stock, said coalition chair and Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi in a prepared statement.

The funding model would support Amtrak and help create high-speed corridors. The coalition’s vision for future passenger-rail expansion centers on developing high-speed service on 100- to 400-mile corridors. Featuring trains operating at top speeds of 110 mph, the corridors would enable intercity passenger rail to compete with automobiles and "short hop" airline service.

Coalition members also support increased funding for freight-rail track maintenance.

"The key to freight railroad support will be to provide adequate capital funding for infrastructure to address freight railroad capacity needs," Busalacchi said. "This will allow the operation of passenger service in a manner that will not interfere with freight operations."