Earlier this month, MIPRC officers sent a letter to members of the US House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD), asking that key funding for passenger rail development be included in the federal FY 2013 appropriations. The commission requested $1.050 billion for the HSIPR program (the amount authorized in PRIIA); $500 million for the TIGER program and $2.167 billion in operating and capital support for Amtrak.The full text of the letter follows:
On behalf of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC), we would like to provide input into the FY 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriation process. While we appreciate the extraordinary budgetary constraints you face, we continue to believe strongly that investment in intercity passenger rail – to reduce travel times, improve reliability, increase frequencies, allow better equipment utilization, and, ultimately, grow both ridership and revenue – will lead to valuable economic growth and environmental benefits for the general public.
- First, we request $1.050 billion, the total amount authorized in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) (P.L. 110-432, Division B), for Section 301 (Intercity Passenger Rail Service Corridor Capital Assistance), Section 302 (Congestion Grants) and Section 501 (High Speed Rail Projects). This level of investment will send a strong message to the rail supply industry to continue their investment in manufacturing capacity. In the Midwest, this will also coincide with completion of planning and environmental documents as well as the maturing of projects begun with earlier funds.
- Second, we urge you to support an investment of $500 million for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. A recent report by the Department of the Treasury found that TIGER has allocated $2.6 billion to 172 competitively selected projects. The demand for TIGER co-investment has been tremendous. The US DOT has received applications from 3,248 projects, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Combined, these projects requested over $90 billion in federal funding, with many projects also supported by state, local, and sometimes private capital. Intercity passenger rail has benefited from this program.
- Third, we support Amtrak’s request for $2.167 billion in operating and capital support for FY 2013: $450 million for operations to support the national network of corridor, state-supported and long-distance trains; $1.445 billion for capital and infrastructure projects nationally; $212 million for debt service; and $60 million for Northeast Corridor (NEC) development projects.
Amtrak’s FY 2013 operations request is lower than what it received in the FY 2012 appropriation. Amtrak now covers 85 percent of its operating costs with non-federal dollars, and MIPRC supports both the reforms the company has undertaken to improve its efficiencies, and its efforts to build the equipment, infrastructure and organization needed to ensure continued strong growth.
- Lastly, as a result of careful stewardship of initial funds, no additional financial resources are requested at this time for PRIIA Section 305 activities. The Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee (NGEC) continues to make substantial progress towards deployment of a fleet of next generation intercity passenger rail equipment. In April 2012, the Midwestern states of Illinois, Michigan and Missouri, along with California, will release an RFP for a joint procurement of new bi-level rail cars based on the PRIIA Section 305 specification. Following this RFP will be another joint procurement among the Midwestern states, California and Washington for next generation locomotives based on the PRIIA Section 305 specification.
Despite a fragile national economy, intercity passenger rail ridership continues to grow across America, especially in the Midwest, where just one example is the 210% ridership surge we’ve seen along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor in the last five years, before the current improvements even began. We believe that investments in rail will provide a positive rate of return for the nation both now and well into the future and urge your support for these initiatives.
Thank you for your consideration.