Rail Passengers Praise Historic Passenger Train Investments

For Immediate Release (#10-01)

January 27, 2010

Contacts: Ross Capon, Sean Jeans-Gail: 202-408-8362

Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) commends the Obama administration for its historic commitment of $8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds toward “ready-to-go” projects to revitalize America’s neglected passenger train system.

Tomorrow’s awards, reportedly going to projects in 31 states and 13 corridors, make crucial, strategic investments to start construction of a national network of high-speed passenger train corridors. These investments promise to bring Americans freedom to choose an attractive alternative to crowded highways and airports while making it easier for travelers to connect among trains, cars, planes and local transit. The investments will stimulate economic development in on-line communities, with emphasis on pedestrian- and transit-friendly development that supports travelers “freedom to choose” how they get around. We expect to see grants both for some very high speed corridors, and for significant improvements to and additions of conventional services with anticipated top speeds in the medium term between 80 and 110 mph. We look for funding for both infrastructure and rolling stock.

NARP urges the administration to further strengthen its commitment by investing at least $4 billion annually for intercity passenger trains. Congress took a first step by including $2.5 billion for high-speed rail in the regular 2010 appropriations law.

Twenty-four states demonstrated pent-up demand for intercity passenger-train funding by inundating the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) with 45 applications totaling about $50 billion. In addition, FRA received 214 applications from 34 states totaling $7 billion for corridor planning and smaller projects. (FRA’s October 6 statement is at http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/2301) We encourage those states whose projects were not selected to resubmit applications in the future.

These submissions reflect strong national support for substantial expansion of passenger train service. NARP addressed this need in its June 2007 “Grid and Gateway” passenger train expansion plan (http://www.narprail.org/vision). This proposal expanded the network to 45,000 miles, equivalent to the Eisenhower Interstate Highway program begun in the 1950s.

Importantly, a stable, secure and dedicated source of operational support is needed to assure that federal and state dollars invested in expanding the national rail infrastructure are fully utilized. States have been identified as taking on an expanded role as the principal architects of new corridor rail services. Under existing law, states will be responsible for funding these new offerings, but we believe states need some federal operating assistance.

NARP salutes the Obama administration and the Congress for this monumental first step in forging a new beginning for America’s travelers. By putting steel in the nation’s transportation backbone, our leaders are promoting economic development, improving America’s competitive position in the global marketplace, reducing our dependency on foreign oil and providing the essential transportation capacity needed to move people and goods into, out of and between our cities in the next 40 years, during which our population will grow by nearly 140 million people – almost as many as the nation’s total population in 1950.