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The House of Representatives has introduced the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act. The measure, introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Pete DeFazio, calls for a five-year, $494 billion investment, including $165 billion for transit and rail.
INVEST triples funding for Amtrak to $29 billion over five years, which includes money for the Northeast Corridor (Gateway Project) and the national network. It also creates a new $19 billion program, the Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion (PRIME) grant program, which would be devoted entirely to passenger rail improvements and expansion, performance optimization, and intercity passenger rail transportation expansion. INVEST dramatically increases funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. It also expands program eligibilities and allows commuter rail authorities to compete for the funds. A $2.5 billion grade separation grant program will help improve safety at rail crossings.
On the transit side, INVEST increases funding for transit agencies to add news routes and provide more reliable service; strengthens Buy America provisions to boost domestic jobs in rail and bus manufacturing; streamlines project delivery by reforming the Capital Investment Grants program; and provides investments needed to address the growing backlog of transit maintenance needs.
One drawback of the INVEST Act is that it prohibits the U.S. DOT from allowing the transport of liquefied natural gas by rail tank car until extensive safety analysis is performed and additional conditions are met.
“With the FAST Act expiring at the end of September, we applaud Chairman DeFazio’s release of a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill,” said Chuck Baker, president of the American Short Line and Regional Rail Association. “We look forward to working with both the House and the Senate as the process moves forward and hopefully culminates in the enactment of a long-term, bipartisan bill.
“There will be many policies considered in this bill that are crucially important to the ability of the short line freight railroad industry to meet the evolving needs of our customers, enabling thousands of important agricultural, energy, and industrial shippers in small-town and rural America to remain connected to the national and global economies.”
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