Release #15-16

Train Passengers Applaud Senate’s Move to Increase Funding for Life-Saving Safety Technology; Call for More Local Choice in Transportation Spending

For Immediate Release (#15-16)

Contact: Benet J. Wilson

202-408-8362, ext. 3203

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers threw the full weight of its 28,000 members behind the provision included added to the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act that provides an additional $199 million in dedicated funding for Positive Train Control (PTC), a life-saving technology whose implementation is long past due.

PTC is an automated system that monitors and controls train movements, acting as a safety-critical redundancy system to protect against human error. The National Transportation Safety Board has said Amtrak Train #188 would not have derailed outside Philadelphia on May 12 if PTC had been in place on the curve in question; the tragic derailment caused eight deaths and hundreds of injuries.

The accident cast a spotlight on passenger and freight railroads scrambling to meet a December 31, 2015, deadline for PTC implementation, struggling with technological hurdles and limited financial resources.

“Just as important as the level of the authorization is the structure of the eligibility,” wrote NARP President Jim Mathews in a letter sent to Senate leadership. “The new authorization allows for the subsidization of credit risk premiums, which means this funding stream has the potential to finally unlock the chronically underused Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan program. With $35 billion in largely untapped loan and loan guarantee authority, RRIF could potentially be used to leverage the amount provided by the DRIVE Act by a factor of ten. A funding boost would alleviate many of concerns passengers are currently struggling with—not only over safety, but on the continued existence of the train they count on for mobility, since many state and local transportation authorities have been saddled with impossible implementation costs.

“NARP believes including dedicated funding for a passenger rail capital program in the transportation trust fund establishes an important precedent,” added Mathews. “In light of the massive backlog facing the U.S. rail network—for intercity and urban transit, safety and system expansion—there has never been a better time to include predictable, dedicated funding for the national rail network in a truly unified surface transportation fund.”

NARP also asked for support for a number of amendments that were offered to the DRIVE act but not incorporated through the manager’s package. These amendments embrace principles of flexibility by allowing states to determine how best to allocate limited resources to meet critical objectives, giving transportation leaders on the front lines the tools they need to build A Connected America.

The DRIVE Act is currently being considered by the full Senate, and will have to be taken up by the House before it becomes law—likely after Congress’ August recess.

The full text of the letter, including a list of the selected amendments, can be found below.


July 28, 2015

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader

317 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader

522 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington , DC 20510

Dear Senators McConnell and Reid,

I’m writing to offer the thanks of the National Association of Railroad Passenger’s 28,000 members for the provision included in the manager’s package to the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act that provides an additional $199 million in dedicated funding for Positive Train Control (PTC), a life-saving technology whose implementation is long past-due.

Just as important as the level of the authorization is the structure of the eligibility. The new authorization allows for the subsidization of credit risk premiums, which means this funding stream has the potential to finally unlock the chronically underused Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan program. With $35 billion in largely untapped loan and loan guarantee authority, RRIF could potentially be used to leverage the amount provided by the DRIVE Act by a factor of ten. A funding boost would alleviate many of concerns passengers are currently struggling with—not only over safety, but on the continued existence of the train they count on for mobility, since many state and local transportation authorities have been saddled with impossible implementation costs.

NARP believes including dedicated funding for a passenger rail capital program in the transportation trust fund establishes an important precedent. In light of the massive backlog facing the U.S. rail network—for intercity and urban transit, safety and system expansion—there has never been a better time to include predictable, dedicated funding for the national rail network in a truly unified surface transportation fund. That is especially true now that the Highway and Mass Transit trust fund is drawing on ever more sources of non-transportation revenue to shore up the fund in the face of declining gas tax revenue.

NARP also supports a number of amendments that were offered to the DRIVE act that were not incorporated through the manager’s package. NARP believes they strengthen a bill with an already-strong passenger rail title, and urges Congress to reconsider these provisions in conference negotiations between the Senate and House. These amendments embrace principles of flexibility, allowing states to determine how best to allocate limited resources to meet critical objectives. By allowing states and MPOs to access the full arsenal of transportation solutions—not through set-asides or federally-mandated formulas, but rather through increased local choice and funding flexibility—Congress is giving transportation leaders on the frontlines the tools they need to build A Connected America.

America’s train passengers are appreciative of the bipartisan work that has gone into the rail portions of the DRIVE Act. The full list of amendments NARP would like to draw attention to is included at the bottom of this letter.

Thank you in advance for your consideration,

Jim Mathews

President & CEO

National Association of Railroad Passengers

CC: Senator James Inhofe

Senator Barbara Boxer

Senator Richard Shelby

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator John Thune

Senator Bill Nelson

Senator Deb Fischer

Senator Cory Booker


NARP Supported Amendments

· SA 2515 Mr. CARPER (for himself and Mr. MENENDEZ): Increase the limitation on multimodal projects under the state freight formula program from 10% to 25% of a state's apportionment.

· SA 2426. Mr. CARPER: Creates a waiver process to allow for increased state investment in multimodal ‎projects. ‎Allows States, with DOT Secretary approval, to obligate additional funds for multimodal projects if those projects are prioritized in the state freight investment plan.

· SA 2427. Mr. CARPER: Expands definition of "multimodal facilities" to specifically include "private freight rail facilities, water facilities (including ports), and intermodal facilities".

· SA 2428. Mr. CARPER: Broaden eligibility under the state freight formula program to allow for state investment in multimodal projects that are adjacent to or within the property of a multimodal facility, rather than just within; strikes requirement for "direct" intermodal interchange.

· SA 2429. Mr. CARPER (for himself, Mr. WARNER, and Mr. MENENDEZ): Eliminate the limitation on rail/transit projects under AMPP and shift project selection from FHWA to DOT Sec.

· SA 2430. Mr. CARPER: Add intercity passenger rail as an eligible activity under the STP program.

· SA 2419. Ms. CANTWELL (for herself, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. UDALL, Mr. CARPER, and Mr. BOOKER): To increase the authorization level of the new “assistance for freight projects grant program.”

About the National Association of Railroad Passengers

NARP is the only national organization speaking for the users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.

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