Blumenthal, Davis & Udall Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Provide Permanent Amtrak Funding

Intercity passenger rail is currently the only major type of transportation without a dedicated funding stream

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) introduced the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act to permanently fund Amtrak. The bicameral legislation would create a dedicated fund 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.

“This measure envisions a milestone, major commitment to rail transit in real money, for now and future generations,” said Blumenthal. “We must make a long-term, steady commitment to our nation’s intercity passenger rail system to ensure its safety and reliability for passengers. This legislation puts Amtrak on the right course to continually invest in and improve its operations. By establishing this fund, we are simply catching up with the longstanding investment in improving other critical American transportation infrastructure. This action is long overdue and we must pass this legislation immediately for the sake and safety of our traveling public.”

“Passenger rail represents opportunity for our nation on so many levels: as an economic engine, as a part of our transformation to cleaner, more efficient transportation infrastructure, as a solution to ground and airport traffic congestion while incorporating rural America into a national transportation system,” said Davis. “We have seen the consequences of postponing investments in this critical infrastructure. This bill recognizes the necessity of sustaining passenger rail with a dedicated funding stream.”

“Amtrak is an economic engine for communities in New Mexico and across the nation,” said Udall. “We need to invest in passenger rail to ensure that routes like the Southwest Chief – which connect rural communities throughout our state and bolster local economies – can stay running long into the future.”

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 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 legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL), Al Lawson (D-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Bobby Rush (D-IL) in the House.

The Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act is endorsed by Amtrak, the Rail Passengers Association, and the National League of Cities.

“Amtrak commends Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Davis for their introduction of this important bicameral legislation,” said Amtrak President & CEO Bill Flynn. “Intercity passenger rail is the only major transportation mode that does not currently have a trust fund, which makes it difficult for Amtrak to fix our aged assets and best serve our customers across the nation. The Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act is a dedicated, predictable funding source and would truly be a game changer for our entire network. We urge Congress to consider its passage.”

“Predictable, dedicated funding has been a watchword for American passengers for the last 50 years, and we are incredibly pleased to finally endorse the bill that will make this goal a reality,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association. “There have been many worthy plans for building a 21st Century passenger rail network in the U.S, but this bill is greater than that. The Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act fund is the engine that will start America’s passengers, finally, on our journey. We applaud Senator Blumenthal and Representative Davis for the ambition on display in this legislation, and look forward to working with them to make it law.”

“The National League of Cities thanks Senators Blumenthal and Udall, and Representative Davis for their leadership in introducing the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act, which would provide rail investments with the same efficient financing tool that Congress provides to roads and transit through the Highway Trust Fund,” said Clarence Anthony, Executive Director and CEO of the National League of Cities.A rail trust fund makes existing Congressional funding to Amtrak more effective as they make necessary upgrades. America’s cities benefit greatly from Amtrak’s service and from using taxpayers’ dollars efficiently, so we urge Congress to swiftly pass this common-sense proposal.” 

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