Senate Ups Aid to Amtrak, Public Transit

Two Indiana projects would benefit from the $30.5 billion for public transit that is part of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was approved by the Senate last Saturday.

The Senate increased by $1.25 billion the funding for public transit over what the House approved on Feb. 27 and also increased the funding for Amtrak over the House-passed levels.

The bill now goes back to the House for further consideration. The House passed a modified version of the legislation providing $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 emergency funding.

Although some senators proposed amendments that would have cut, transferred or removed the aid to public transit, few of those amendments received a roll call vote and none were approved.

However, the Senate did approve an amendment to make 23 public transit programs eligible for federal Capital Investment Grants.

The House is expected to take up the amended version of the bill today and if approved it would go to President Joseph Biden for his signature.

No projects from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky or West Virginia, were included among the 23 public transit projects eligible for CIG grants.

The two projects in Indiana that will qualify for funding include a double tracking of the South Shore Commuter rail line and a project to establish the West Lake Corridor commuter rail corridor between Hammond and Dyer

The project cost of the West Lake Corridor is $945 million and with a CIG grant share of 38 percent or $355 million. The local share for the project is $590 million.

The South Shore double tracking project cost is $491 million with a CIG grant share of of 38 percent or $173 million. The local share is $318 million.

The American Rescue Plan Act includes $1.7 billion for Amtrak. That is a $200 million increase in funding from what the House approved last month.

Under the Senate version of the legislation $970 million will go toward the Northeast Corridor while the national network will receive $730 million.

The bill also provides $285 million to Amtrak “in lieu of commuter rail and state-supported route payments.”

The bill includes $166 million “to restore service on long-distance routes and to recall and manage furloughed employees.”

The breakdown of other public transit funding in the bill includes $26.09 billion for transit systems in urban areas and $317 million for grants in rural areas.

Also approved was $50 million in grants to benefit services for seniors and those with disabilities; $2.21 billion for operating assistance grants  pertaining to addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; and $250 million for Small Start projects that are recipients of a CIG allocation or an applicant in the project development phase.

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