MIPRC compares House & Senate surface reauthorization rail titles, notes their silence on PRIIA Sec. 209 reform
As Congress debates and votes on the House’s and Senate’s versions of surface transportation reauthorization, and their inevitable melding in a conference committee, MIPRC has created a side-by-side comparison for reference.
The chart shows funding and program authorizations in the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684) and the Surface Transportation Reinvestment Act of 2021 (S.2016), and their provisions compared to what MIPRC has asked of Congress in its Surface Transportation Reauthorization principles.
While both bills retain rail/passenger rail as a separate title, they differ on funding for extant grant programs and authorization of new ones, as well as regional passenger rail planning efforts, and how Amtrak and state-supported routes are to be treated.
One aspect on which both bills are currently silent – and which MIPRC has taken a strong position – is lowering the threshold established in Section 209 of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) of 750 miles for state-supported service. This is an unreasonably high threshold and MIPRC believes it should be substantially lowered (we are suggesting 250 miles or service entirely within a state, with some qualifications). Another option is for Amtrak to assume responsibility for the operating costs of the first frequency or frequencies of new service, with state support responsibility kicking in with subsequent frequencies. We strongly request that our commissioners, partners and allies contact their Members of Congress to ask that one of these options be included in the final legislation.
On July 1, the INVEST (Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation) Act passed the House on a 221-201 vote. As of the same date, S.2016 had passed out of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and is awaiting action in the full Senate. Ultimately the two bills will have to be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee report that must be approved by each chamber before President Biden can sign it into law.
The FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act of 2015 was set to expire at the end of September 2020 but was extended by one year.