House to Discuss Amtrak Reauthorization Bill

WASHINGTON — The House was today expected to discuss a bill to reauthorize Amtrak and improve intercity passenger rail.

Last month, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved HR 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The bill authorizes $14.4 billion for Amtrak capital and operating grants, state intercity passenger grants, and high-speed rail over the next five years.

Even if the house approves the bill, it faces a tough road since President Bush has said he supports a self-sufficient Amtrak.

Major provisions of the bill include:

– Authorizing $4.2 billion (an average of $840 million per year) to Amtrak for capital grants and $3.0 billion (an average of $606 million per year) for operating grants

– Creating a new State Capital Grant program for intercity passenger rail capital projects

– Authorizing $1.75 billion ($350 million per year) for grants to states and/or Amtrak to finance the construction and equipment for 11 authorized high-speed rail corridors

– Providing congestion grants to Amtrak and the states for high-priority rail corridors in order to reduce congestion and facilitate ridership growth

– Authorizing $345 million each year for debt service through FY2013

– Directing the Secretary of Transportation to issue a request for proposals for projects for the financing, design, construction, and operation of an initial high-speed rail system operating between Washington and New York

– Establishing a forum at the Surface Transportation Board to help complete stalled commuter rail negotiations.