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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
The House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) earlier this week approved its fiscal-year 2021 appropriations bill
that provides an additional $26 billion in emergency funding for U.S. Department of Transportation programs to help Amtrak
and public transit agencies recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Public Transportation Association
(APTA) announced this week.
The bill contains "historic" funding levels, including significant increases proposed in transit formula programs in the so-called INVEST in America Act, which is part of House Democrats' surface transportation infrastructure legislation.
Under the appropriations legislation, $18.9 billion would go to Federal Transit Administration and $3 billion for Federal Railroad Administration programs, APTA officials said in a Legislative Update email. The additional funding includes $5 billion for Capital Investment Grants; $5 billion for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements; $5 billion for Northeast Corridor grants to Amtrak; $3 billion for national network grants to Amtrak; $100 million for the Magnetic Levitation Technology Deployment Program; and $3 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants.
In addition, the bill would not allow application of the so-called Rostenkowski Test, an administrative provision that would require a $6 billion cut to public transportation formula grants in FY2021.
The bill also includes a requirement that to receive the extra funding, Amtrak may not cut staff or long-distance or state routes.
In a prepared statement, the Rail Passengers Association
(RPA) praised the emergency funding and endorsed the additional route protection requirement for Amtrak to access the extra dollars. The requirement would "would buy certainty for workers and passengers alike," said RPA President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mathews.
Some members of Congress have expressed concern
about Amtrak's reported plan to enact cutbacks to staff and certain routes, including long-distance, while seeking additional funding to help it recover economically from the pandemic.