Senate Approves Rail Safety Bill; Billions go to Passenger Rail

WASHINGTON —  The U.S. Senate has approved the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

The legislation will increase funding for Amtrak over the next five years, require new safety controls on trains that help reduce crashes, allow states to regulate solid waste processing facilities along rail lines and allocate funding for improvements to Washington, D.C.’s Metro transit system.

“This is a real step forward for anyone who’s tired of sitting in traffic, paying high prices at the pump and waiting in long lines at airports,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, said after the House of Representatives passed the legislation.

“As Amtrak ridership continues to hit record levels, our bill gives passenger rail the resources it needs to meet the Nation’s increased demands,” Lautenberg added. “Our rail safety bill modernizes safety laws and decreases risk with smarter regulation and modern technology.”

The bill renew efforts to provide dedicated funding to help maintain the Metro system in a state of good repair so that Metro can continue to efficiently serve this region, including the federal workforce, which constitutes a substantial portion of its rush-hour riders, WMATA officals said.

“Our congressional delegation and others in Congress have worked hard to move this legislation through both the House and the Senate. We are grateful for their efforts to protect the substantial investment the federal government and the national capital region have made in the Metro system.” said Metro General Manager John Catoe.

“Metro is an asset designed to support the federal government as well as the entire region,” Catoe said. Nearly half of all Metrorail stations are located at federal facilities and nearly half of peak ridership consists of federal employees.

“A safe, secure, and reliable Metro system is also a critical component for ensuring the continuity of federal operations during an emergency,” Catoe added.

The bill now goes to the president.

— News Wire