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MIPRC stresses need for dedicated multi-year federal funding for all modes, including passenger rail

This week, MIPRC sent a letter to the conferees to the federal surface transportation reauthorization, stressing the need for dedicated, multi-year multimodal funding, and making the case that passenger rail be included.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Conferee to the federal surface transportation reauthorization,

As you continue your efforts to strengthen investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission would like to stress the need for robust, multi-year funding for all transportation modes.

Such a strategy sends a critical market signal to both the public and private sectors. As state officials we can assure you that a well-funded federal program would leverage state and local investment. Further, a program that embraced a truly multi-modal approach would enhance the aforementioned signal. Such an approach would provide state and multi-state corridors greater flexibility to address mobility challenges in a comprehensive manner. 

Concomitantly, the House has joined energy development and transportation. Conceptually, we agree with this approach. Undoubtedly the details of such an approach are an enormous undertaking. We would ask that in addition to energy development, you consider the role intercity passenger rail can play in energy conservation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, passenger trains use less BTUs per passenger mile than either airline or autos – passenger rail is 17 percent more fuel efficient than airlines on a per-passenger mile basis, and 21 percent more fuel efficient than vehicles.

Further, we remain strongly convinced that transportation funding works best when it is based on dedicated funding linked to contract authority for use of those funds. Thirty-two states are currently making improvements to or building new passenger rail lines in their states, and 39 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak have submitted applications requesting more than $75 billion for the $10 billion that has been made available through the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program. Yet, intercity passenger rail lacks a dedicated source of capital and planning funds. Amtrak ridership has set records in eight of the last nine years: this continued growth in passenger rail ridership argues strongly for the certainty that can only come from a dedicated source of funding.

Lastly, we would like to stress the critical need to provide multi-year transitional assistance to the affected states for implementation of Sec. 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA). This will provide states an opportunity to bring on-line new revenue streams and ridership revenue to fully develop.

The Conference Committee faces an extraordinary challenge, and we appreciate your efforts. We strongly encourage you to adopt a long-term multi-modal vision for our nation’s transportation system.

Thank you for your consideration, and best wishes.

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