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Blumenthal & Davis Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Provide Permanent Funding for Amtrak

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) introduced the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act today to provide permanent funding for Amtrak. The bicameral legislation would create a dedicated funding stream to help Amtrak invest in major improvement projects, increase passenger rail’s efficiency, and help provide safer, more reliable service. Intercity passenger rail currently relies on the often unpredictable and limited annual appropriations process for funding, making it difficult to plan long-term, comprehensive investments needed to improve the system. The bill is being introduced ahead of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s Wednesday hearing on transportation infrastructure. Over the next several months, Congress will consider legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs, including Amtrak operations.

“This bill envisions the long-term, steady funding commitment to our nation’s intercity passenger rail system necessary to ensure it is safe and reliable for passengers today and long into the future,” said Blumenthal. “Every other critical mode of transportation infrastructure in our country has a dedicated funding stream—except for passenger rail. Thanks to this dedicated funding, Amtrak would be able to continually invest in and improve operations. This action is long overdue and this bill should be immediately advanced to ensure the safety of the traveling public.”  

“Today, passenger rail represents an opportunity for economic revival, cleaner infrastructure and more efficient travel; it also provides an adequate solution to ground and airport traffic congestion while incorporating rural America into a national transportation system,” said Davis. “Given the status of our nation’s infrastructure, this bill will provide resources to sustaining passenger rail with a dedicated funding stream.”

Currently, intercity passenger rail is the only major type of transportation without a dedicated funding stream. The Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act would establish a new federal Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund and provide approximately $5.4 billion to that fund annually in grants for repairs, trip time optimizing investments, improving service, modernizing the fleet, and other needs. Forty percent would be reserved in the Northeast Corridor (Washington-New York-Boston) and 60 percent would be reserved for the National Network (Amtrak’s State-Supported and Long-Distance service lines).

The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in the House. The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here and the bill summary can be found here. A similar version of the bill was introduced in the House.

The Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act is endorsed by Amtrak, Rail Passengers Association, National League of Cities, and National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).

“An intercity passenger rail trust fund would be a game changer for America and for Amtrak,” said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn. “Nearly every mode of transportation already has a trust fund except for intercity passenger rail. Providing dedicated and predictable funding to Amtrak would help us increase efficiency and improve planning, helping us advance major bridge and tunnel projects and provide energy efficient transportation to more customers, including underserved communities across the nation. We thank Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Davis for their introduction of this important bicameral legislation and urge Congress to consider its passage.”

“The Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act provides the predictable, dedicated funding required to drive the next great expansion in the U.S. passenger rail network,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association. “If Americans are ever to have access to a world class transportation system, we need to take seriously the problem of how this country funds the creation of modern, efficient passenger rail services; that is just what this bill does. We applaud Senator Blumenthal and Representative Davis for the ambition on display in this legislation, and we stand ready to work with them to pass this proposal into law.”

“America’s cities benefit from a robust intercity and commuter rail network that connects our regions, and the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act will give rail the same dependable financing tool that Congress provides already to roads and transit,” said Clarence Anthony, Executive Director and CEO of the National League of Cities. “The National League of Cities thanks Senator Blumenthal and Representative Davis for their leadership in moving forward this common-sense rail proposal.”

“Amtrak is a critical form of transportation for millions of Americans with disabilities,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “But many Amtrak trains and stations remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. The National Disability Rights Network supports the establishment of a dedicated funding source for Amtrak so they can begin to address these architectural and other accessibility barriers.”