Senate committee OKs rail reforms, Amtrak authorization

June 26, 2015

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation yesterday approved the “Railroad Reform, Enhancement and Efficiency Act” to improve freight- and passenger-rail safety and reauthorizes Amtrak funding at $6.6 billion over the next four fiscal years.

The bill also calls for $570 million per year for grants to rail agencies to fund a variety of projects, including installation of positive train control (PTC) systems, infrastructure and grade-crossing improvements and rail line relocation programs, according to an American Public Transportation Association “Legislative Alert.”

Additionally, the bill calls for investments in passenger-rail infrastructure, would leverage private-sector investment in the Northeast Corridor, increase states’ say in infrastructure planning on state-supported Amtrak routes and in the Northeast Corridor, and streamlines the permitting process on infrastructure projects, according to a committee press release.

Safety provisions include speed limit mandates, grade-crossing action plans and installation of speed warning signs and alerters. The legislation also would encourage the use of confidential close-call reporting systems.

The bill would authorize the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program to consider loan applications to support PTC implementation.

 

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