Senate Acts to Preserve Rail Funding ... Bill heads to Conference

linc-pfr rail capitolbldg-ts-101220536.jpg On November 1  the U.S. Senate voted to approve a "minibus" bill that combined transportation, housing, and other spending bills. The minibus bill included $1.48 billion for Amtrak and $100 million for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIPR) in the Fiscal Year 2012.

While the $1.48 billion for Amtrak falls short of its $2.2 billion budget request, the Senate bill avoids the drastic cuts proposed by the House that would cut operating funding by 60 percent and shut down the state-supported lines that serve approximately 9 million passengers in 15 states - almost one-third of Amtrak's passengers - with negative impacts on the communities served by these corridors. Amtrak just posted its most successful year ever, serving 30.2 million passengers in the 2011 fiscal year.

The $100 million for the HSIPR program essentially keeps the program alive -- continuing the momentum states are making in planning and building their passenger rail networks. Despite the fact that this Congress slashed funding for the HSIPR program in 2011 it remains popular among the states. Last year, the Department of Transportation received applications from 39 states totaling nearly $75 billion for high-speed and intercity passenger rail grants.

The bill now goes to conference committee, where the Senate and House must reconcile the different funding levels. America 2050 recently gathered 100 signatures from organizations, Mayors, and business and civic leaders in a letter sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate appropriations committees urging them to preserve the Senate's levels of funding for Amtrak and high-speed rail.