Open Your Wallet: Congress Approves Billions for Rail

WASHINGTON — Congress has approved legislation that proponents say will improve the Nation’s intercity passenger rail system and the safety of the nation’s railroads.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 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’s Metro transit system.

Among the billions of dollars worth of provisions in the bill:

— Authorizes $13.06 billion over five years for passenger rail— more than $2.6 billion annually for Amtrak, intercity passenger rail and high speed rail programs, which is almost double what the U.S. is currently spending .

— Mandates positive train control (PTC) technology on passenger and certain hazmat rail main lines by 2015 and authorize $250 million in Federal grants for PTC installation.

— the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reauthorization bill, included in this bloated piece of legislation, authorizes $1.5 billion over 10 years for rehabilitation and improvements to Washington D.C.’s rail transit system.

The American Association of Railroads said railroads would work together to meet the requirements.

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