Press Releases

Bipartisan Passenger Rail Reform Bill Introduced

Washington, DC, February 5, 2015 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders today introduced bipartisan legislation that improves the infrastructure, reduces costs, creates greater accountability and transparency, leverages private sector resources, and accelerates project delivery for Amtrak and the Nation’s passenger rail transportation system.

The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, or PRRIA (H.R. 749), was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA); T&I Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR); Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA); and Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Capuano (D-MA).  The same legislation was introduced in the House last Congress, and the Committee approved it unanimously.

“Passenger rail has a role to play in our transportation network, but we’ve simply got to do it better,” Shuster said.  “This bill focuses on reforms, transparency, and accountability for Amtrak.  By compelling Amtrak to operate more like a true business, cutting red tape, and opening the door to more private sector resources, we can make some long overdue improvements to passenger rail transportation in the United States.”

“In every region of the country, passenger rail investments boost local economies and create thousands of family-wage construction, engineering, and manufacturing jobs,” DeFazio said.  “This bipartisan legislation provides critical investments and system-wide improvements to increase capacity and make our railways safer.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important legislation.”

“This bill, which passed the Committee with unanimous bipartisan support last Congress, will give Amtrak the ability to modernize and improve so that they can best serve the millions of Americans who depend on their service daily,” Denham said.  “It will also cut costs, ensure greater accountability to the public, and speed up project delivery across the Nation.”

“This bipartisan legislation will improve passenger rail service which is an important component of an effective transportation network.  Increasing investment in rail service not only leads to better customer service, it also creates economic benefits and employment opportunities,” said Capuano.

Passenger rail presents one of the best transportation alternatives for relieving congestion on some of the Nation’s most crowded highways and in our busy airspace.  However, the rail system and Amtrak – the country’s intercity passenger rail provider – must be reformed and improved.  For years, Amtrak has operated under unrealistic fiscal expectations and without a sufficient level of transparency.  Profits from Amtrak’s only profitable route -- the Northeast Corridor (NEC) – currently are not invested back into the corridor.  And although significant ridership increases are occurring on Amtrak’s state-supported routes, its inconsistent financial structure and “black box” accounting system hamper states’ ability to help manage the routes and understand what exactly it is they’re paying Amtrak for. 

In addition, rail infrastructure projects are unnecessarily delayed by unwieldy review processes that cost time and money, and current law that limits the ability to partner with the private sector holds back the development of the system.

PRRIA addresses these issues and builds upon improvements included in the previous rail authorization of 2008.

Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 Highlights

Reforms Amtrak to Increase Transparency, Reduce Costs, and Operate More Like a Business

  • Eliminates Amtrak’s losses in food and beverage service
  • Mandates Amtrak carry out a business case analysis for all major procurements
  • Eliminates Amtrak’s black-box accounting and requires transparent bookkeeping aligned with core service functions
  • Leverages Resources and Encourages Non-Federal Participation

  • Creates station development opportunities for the private sector
  • Opens new revenue streams through right-of-way development
  • Unlocks an underutilized federal railroad loan program
  • Assists with advancing large infrastructure projects through partnerships with states
  • Targets Investments Where There is the Greatest Potential for Success

  • Improves management of the Northeast Corridor
  • Incentivizes increased Northeast Corridor investments
  • Empowers States to Have a Greater Role in Managing Routes

  • Ensures states are equal partners, giving them a greater say in decision making to ensure passengers get the best service
  • Strengthens transparency to give states and Congress greater insight into Amtrak’s accounting to identify areas for improvement
  • Requires Amtrak to evaluate long-distance routes, improve services, and lower costs
  • Streamlines Environmental Reviews and Accelerates Project Delivery

  • Sets hard deadlines to reasonably limit review times
  • Requires reviews to occur concurrently rather than consecutively
  • Improves coordination among federal, state, and local agencies involved in the reviews 
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