Posts Tagged ‘surface transportation reauthorization’

House Passes Surface Transportation Bill

July 3, 2020

The U.S. House this week passed a five year reauthorization of surface transportation programs.

H.R. 2, which was named the Moving Forward Act, authorizes spending of $1.5 trillion on various transportation-related programs, including Amtrak.

The legislation approves $500 billion to reauthorize surface transportation programs and funding for infrastructure projects.

That includes $105 billion for public transportation and $60 billion for commuter rail, Amtrak and other high-performance rail service.

The bill has received mixed reviews from railroad trade associations because of various mandates that railroads generally oppose.

H.R. 2 faces considerable opposition in the Senate, which is expected to adopt its own surface transportation reauthorization bill with differences to be worked out in a conference committee.

The current surface transportation law, known as the FAST Act, will expire on Sept. 30.

Aside from specific transportation programs, H.R. 2 also authorizes $130 billion for schools, $100 billion for rural broadband and $100 billion for affordable housing.

Railroad Trade Groups Give Congress Their Wish Lists

December 10, 2019

With Congress expected to take up in 2020 a renewal of surface transportation legislation the railroad industry is lining up to present its wish list on Capitol Hill.

The two major railroad industry trade groups, the Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line Regional Railroad Association, has told Congress what each group would like to see lawmakers enact.

Leaders of both groups testified last week during a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing.

AAR’s Ian Jefferies said his group’s priorities include funding of grade crossing safety programs, federal regulations that allow railroads to innovate with new technologies, reforms of the project permitting process, Amtrak funding and public partnering with freight railroads, and restoration of the Highway Trust Fund to a user-based fund.

Of course the AAR also has policies it opposes, including regulations that would allow longer and heavier trucks on the highways.

Chuck Baker of the ASLRA called for the yearly authorized level for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program and wants that program’s eligibility expanded to include nonprofit associations that represent short lines.

ASLRRA also wants two changes to the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program.

Those are allowing the program to support the most efficient and effective freight projects by removing or at least increasing the $500 million cap on non-highway portions of multimodal freight projects, and increasing the “small projects” set aside which is now 10 percent.

Baker said that isn’t enough opportunity for INFRA grants to be used for most short-line railroad infrastructure projects.

He also called on Congress to encourage the U.S. Department of Transportation to select multimodal projects for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development program grants and “not just projects that can just as easily be done with the normal state highway allocation.”

Improvements to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan authorization program would allow short lines to be directly eligible applicants for project grants, Baker said.