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MIPRC and MWRRI submit joint letter to Secretary LaHood re: CMAQ funding for passenger rail operations

MIPRC and MWRRI submit joint letter to Secretary LaHood re: CMAQ funding for passenger rail operations

Yesterday, MIPRC and the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) steering committee sent a joint letter to US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, asking him to remove the three-year cap on allowing states to use the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) for intercity passenger rail funds operations.

Midwestern states have benefitted greatly from the federal funding available for capital improvements and planning through the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program. Assistance with initial operating costs for new and expanded service – especially as the uniform methodology for charging states for intercity passenger rail operating and capital expenses (required under PRIIA Section 209) comes online next year –  is a complementary priority. Allowing states to use the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) for intercity passenger rail funds operations is one key way to help states with those start-up costs.

Currently, the guidance for CMAQ imposes a three-year cap on the use of funds for intercity passenger rail operating expenses. Since this is an administrative, not a legislative issue, we are urging Secretary LaHood to have that cap removed.

Uncapping the three-year limitation on CMAQ:

  • Does not change the distribution of funds;
  • Does not mandate the use of CMAQ funds for intercity passenger rail;
  • Gives states and groups of states the flexibility envisioned in MAP-21.

Several of our states have used – or plan to use – CMAQ funding to help offset the cost of operating passenger rail service.  Using CMAQ funds for intercity passenger rail operating expenses is a decision for each individual state, but having that flexibility is key.

Click here for a copy of the letter.

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