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Legislative Update August 2010

House Passes FY 2011 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill

On July 29, the House passed the FY 2011 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill, H.R. 5850, by a vote of 251-167. The bill provides $1.4 billion, $400 million above the request, to expand and improve intercity passenger rail and develop a robust national high speed rail system that will create jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing base. With regard to Amtrak, the bill provides $1.77 billion, $201.9 million above 2010 and $151.5 million above the request, to make capital investments, including improvements to Amtrak’s fleet. The increase of $201.9 million above 2010 will create 1,130 additional jobs. The bill also provides $11.3 billion, $500 million above 2010 and $575 million above the President’s request, to support bus and rail projects, including capital expenditures. The increased investment of $500 million in public transportation above 2010 in this bill will create 20,000 new jobs for transit workers around the country.

Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) had proposed an amendment that would eliminate Amtrak’s capital and debt service for 2011, thereby eliminating Amtrak service nationwide and requiring Amtrak to furlough nearly all of its 20,000 employees. It was first reported that Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) would front the amendment, but Congressman Flake proposed it instead. In a late-night session on July 29, the amendment was defeated 129-293. Unfortunately, this attack onAmerica’s Railroad by Congressman Flake and his congressional friends Congresswoman Bachmann and Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) will likely continue. Many thanks to Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) who spoke out in support of Amtrak, as well as to all of you who called your Representatives urging their support for HR 5850 and against measures designed to kill Amtrak.

 

Freight Rail Industry Contributions Recognized by U.S. House of Representatives

On July 27, the House passed a resolution submitted by Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) intended to recognize the many contributions and accomplishments of the freight rail industry and its employees. Shipping goods by rail is one of the most efficient ways to transport freight and the investment of billions of dollars throughout the rail industry has led to decreased fuel consumption and a reduction in harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Freight railroads generate nearly $265 billion in annual economic activity and support over 1.2 million jobs throughout the United States. Congressman Hare stated that he felt that the formal recognition by Congress of the rail industry and the vital role it continues to play in our country’s growth, job creation, and economic recovery is long overdue.

FRA Rule to Strengthen Railroad Bridge Safety Programs

As required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) passed a Final Rule that requires rail track owners to adopt and follow specific procedures to protect the safety of their bridges and to strengthen federal oversight of bridge maintenance programs. The bridge management programs will include annual inspections of bridges, and the track owners will be required to know the safe capacity load of their bridges and to conduct special inspections if weather or other conditions warrant such additional inspections. Additionally, an inventory of all bridges will be required, bridges will be inspected by the FRA, and bridge management programs will be audited. Railroads will also be required to maintain the design documents of each bridge and to document all repairs, modifications, and inspections of each bridge subject to FRA review. The FRA will be authorized to levy fines of up to $100,000.

Railroad Retirement Day – August 29, 2010

Pursuant to a resolution entitled “Supporting the Goals and Ideals of Railroad Retirement Day,” introduced on June 10 by Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) and passed by voice vote on July 15, the U.S. House of Representatives has designated August 29, 2010, as Railroad Retirement Day. The House invites all people of the United States to celebrate the importance of the railroad retirement system to working families. This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Railroad Retirement Act.

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