Saturday, February 14, 2009
Last night, the U.S. Senate passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2008 conference report. The news is very, very good for passenger rail. $8 billion will be provided in capital assistance for intercity and high speed rail development (the Secretary of the US DOT will have flexibility in deciding how the amounts are apportioned between the two programs).
Other significant information:
Amtrak has also fared well, with $1.3 billion -- $450 million for capital security grants and $850 million for “general” use, with a priority for equipment rehabilitation. The money cannot be used for operating, and no more than 60 percent of it can be used in the Northeast Corridor.
The MIPRC sent a letter to the conferees on Wednesday, asking that they ". . . maintain maximum levels of funding for intercity passenger rail within the conference negotiations . . . .” The Midwest has passenger rail projects totaling more than $815 million that could be obligated within 120 days, and many more that are in the planning and preliminary engineering stages. “Investing in passenger rail projects will have a particularly stimulatory effect on our states, as there is pent-up demand for new and expanded service for intercity passenger rail throughout the country,” the letter states.
The full text of the letter can be accessed here. For a list of the projects that can be quickly obligated, click here.
Below is the explanation of the passenger rail-related funding that was given on the U.S. House Rules Committee website, in the “Joint Explanatory Statement -- Division A” (page 82).
The conference agreement provides $8,000,000,000 instead of $300,000,000 as proposed by the House and $2,250,000,000 as proposed by the Senate. The conferees appropriated funds for purposes outlined in both the Capital Assistance to States and the High Speed Passenger rail program' under a combined heading. The conferees have provided the Secretary flexibility in allocating resources between the programs to advance the goal of deploying intercity high speed rail systems in the United States. The Capital Assistance to States program first received funding in fiscal year 2008. The High Speed Passenger Rail program is a new initiative recently authorized under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.
The conference agreement provides $1,300,000,000 instead of $800,000,000 as proposed by the House and $850,000,000 as proposed by the Senate. Of the total funds appropriated, the conferees provide $450,000,000 for capital grants for security improvements to include life safety improvements. The conferees also provide that no more than 60% of the remaining funds shall be spent for capital improvements on the Northeast Corridor.