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Rail Passengers’ 2024 Day on the Hill a Success!

March 29, 2024

Passengers from across the U.S. gathered in D.C. to talk about work being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, opportunities to upgrade and expand passenger rail service in the coming year, and policies to improve oversight and transparency.

Rail Passengers Association members and staff visited more than 200 offices on March 19th as part of the association’s annual Rail Passenger Day on the Hill, meeting with key Congressional leaders and committees to discuss the new opportunities and challenges for passenger rail arising from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

Rail Passengers’ volunteer leadership led the way, educating Congressional staffers on the importance of supporting authorized funding levels for Amtrak and passenger rail programs in the coming fiscal year—highlighting why it's necessary to keep funding Amtrak's operating account to keep the trains running, even with all the BIL funding for capital upgrades.

We also pointed to key initiatives that are being funded by the BIL, including the Corridor Identification Program, the Federal Railroad Administration’s Long Distance Service Study, and Amtrak’s ongoing work to upgrade infrastructure and replace aging equipment for all three service lines.

Other policy areas Rail Passengers focused on included:

Address Amtrak Board of Directors Vacancies: There are currently four expired seats and one vacancy on Amtrak’s Board of Directors. We stand ready to work with Congress and the White House to advance a slate of Directors that—as required by Congress in the IIJA—provides balanced regional representation, speaking for both rural and urban passengers.

Improve Amtrak Transparency and Oversight: Rail Passengers supports legislative initiatives which will improve Amtrak responsiveness to passengers and increase transparency for taxpayers:

  • Require Amtrak’s Board of Directors to comply with standard open meeting requirements;
  • Expand Amtrak’s Board of Directors annual meeting requirements to include meetings with representatives of state-supported services;
  • Require Amtrak’s Board of Directors to publicly disclose any bonus payment made to an Amtrak officer in a year during which Amtrak receives federal grants;

On-Time Performance and Fairness for Passengers: Amtrak passengers have long been a “canary in the coal mine” for U.S. rail operations, with increasing freight-caused delays to Amtrak trains serving as a leading indicator of the decline in reliability and fluidity on our nation’s rail network. Rail Passengers is asking Members of Congress to apply pressure to Host Railroads, who must fulfill their legal obligation to give priority dispatching to Amtrak trains.

Railway Safety Act: Rail Passengers supports the bipartisan push to improve freight rail safety by capping train lengths for certain cargo, mandating two-person crews, increasing financial penalties for violations, and improving oversight and reporting.

American High-Speed Rail Act: As Congress prepares for the next Surface Transportation Reauthorization, we’re endorsing legislation that would provide up to $41 billion annually over 5 years for high-speed and higher-speed rail corridor planning and construction. This bill would also incentivize private investment by making grants available to publicprivate partnerships and provide funding for “credit risk premiums” to unlock the RRIF loan program.