Carper, Biden To Offer Major Rail Bill in Upcoming Senate Debate
Legislation Would Provide Billions For Passenger, Freight Rail Investments
CONTACT: Bill Ghent (Carper) 202-224-8395 (work) 202-236-1124 (cell)
Meredith Rosenthal (Carper) 302-573-6457 (work) 302-598-4622 (cell)
Margaret Aitken (Biden) 302-573-6059
WILMINGTON, DE (Feb. 2, 2004) – In an attempt to put Amtrak on solid ground and provide new federal resources to boost passenger and freight rail projects in Delaware and across the country, Sens. Tom Carper and Joe Biden said Monday that they would attempt to attach an innovative and historic rail improvement package to a major surface transportation bill set for debate this week in the U.S. Senate. The bipartisan legislation, known as the American Railroad Revitalization, Investment and Enhancement Act (ARRIVE-21), is the most comprehensive federal rail legislation introduced in the past 20 years. It would revitalize America’s rail system by strengthening Amtrak and giving states new money to invest in intercity and high-speed passenger rail services, as well as freight rail projects. The same day the Bush administration announced that it would once again shortchange Amtrak in the fiscal 2005 budget, Carper and Biden said ARRIVE-21 would finally provide a stable source of funding for Amtrak’s capital needs so that it can continue to provide timely and efficient passenger rail service. “We cannot afford to keep Amtrak on life support and ignore the potential benefits of freight and passenger rail service in this country,” said Sen. Carper. “For too long, the federal government has focused on providing money for roads, airlines and other transportation projects, telling states that if they want to invest in rail, they will have to go it alone. This bill would provide states with a new way to fund rail projects, affirming rail’s status as a vital part of our transportation infrastructure.” “Today’s passenger and freight railroads are essential components of our surface transportation system,” said Sen. Biden. “With the public sector investment made possible by ARRIVE-21, more rail service can improve our existing transportation network, while benefiting the environment and reducing our dependency on foreign oil.” Carper and Biden were joined at a news conference in Wilmington by representatives of Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, as well as local companies Rocla Concrete Tie Inc., and Maryland and Delaware Railroad. They each said the legislation would benefit Delaware by providing funds for Amtrak and the state to upgrade Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor lines, while improving freight rail service to help downstate farmers and other Delaware businesses. Carper and Biden said they would try to attach the legislation to the giant, $300 billion surface transportation bill that’s scheduled for debate in the Senate this week. That bill would authorize a host of transportation initiatives, including highways and transit projects. While that bill would ultimately prove beneficial to Delaware – indeed, Delaware could see nearly a 36 percent boost in federal highway dollars – the legislation does not provide any sort of dedicated funding source for rail projects. By contrast, ARRIVE-21 calls for a 6-year, $42 billion investment in rail infrastructure and service to expand high-speed passenger rail in congested corridors and to improve freight mobility to better balance the nation’s transportation system. Specifically, the bill would create a congressionally chartered, non-profit, public-private partnership known as the Rail Infrastructure Finance Corporation (RIFCO) to provide new financing for investments in rail. RIFCO would be in charge of issuing some $30 billion in tax-credit bonds over the next six years to fund state-sponsored passenger and freight rail projects. That money would be subdivided for discretionary grants to states and Amtrak for intercity and high-speed rail projects, high-priority projects to be determined by the U.S. Transportation Department and state formula grants for freight rail projects that provide public benefits. Delaware could see up to $3 million annually under the freight program. “Freight railroads are critical to many Delaware farmers and manufacturers,” said Eric Callaway, president of the Maryland and Delaware Railroad located in Delmarva. “Senators Carper and Biden recognize the importance of local short-line freight railroads to the rural areas, and their efforts to improve this infrastructure will preserve manufacturing and agricultural jobs in Delaware and America.” In addition, the bill would authorize roughly $1.5 billion a year for Amtrak’s operating and maintenance costs, including continued repair work at the shops in Bear and Wilmington. These authorizations, plus additional capital grants available from RIFCO, would establish a sound fiscal basis for Amtrak, which has been plagued by poor funding commitments from the Bush administration. “If enacted, ARRIVE-21 will help to revitalize the U.S. rail industry and create thousands of jobs,” said Carper. “According to Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates roughly 47,500 jobs. That means ARRIVE-21 stands to create roughly two million jobs. We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass us by, and I will fight to get congressional approval of this legislation.” “The framework offered by ARRIVE-21 helps bring balance to U.S. transportation policy and will promote the kinds of public-private partnerships that will be critical as we address core infrastructure needs that improve both freight and passenger mobility,” said Bruno Maestri, vice president of public affairs, Norfolk Southern. “The ARRIVE-21 legislation will help balance our transportation system needs by allowing high-speed rail passenger corridors to be developed in our most congested urban regions, providing an efficient way to relieve the ever-increasing traffic snarls created by today’s commuter,” said Robert Andrews of Rocla Concrete Tie Inc. “It will invigorate Amtrak by allowing it to continue fulfilling its mandate to provide quality passenger rail service to the entire country.”
–Using the capital raised by the sale of the tax-credit bonds, RIFCO would award discretionary grants to states and Amtrak for high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail service. States would receive funds for freight rail capital projects based on a specific formula, which could provide Delaware up to $3 million annually.
–Eligible passenger and freight rail projects include planning and environmental review, rail line rehabilitation, upgrades and development, safety and security projects, passenger equipment acquisition, station improvement and intermodal facilities development.
–States would have to provide a 20 percent match for all projects. ARRIVE-21 reauthorizes and reforms Amtrak and potentially reduces Amtrak’s annual federal appropriation: –Authorizes approximately $1.5 billion annually for 6 years for Amtrak’s capital and operating expenses not funded through RIFCO capital grants.
–Increases oversight over Amtrak and how it spends federal funds.
–Authorizes a study of Amtrak routes and the creation of new service standards designed to improve intercity rail service. ARRIVE-21 promotes jobs and economic growth, protects the environment and meets the growing demand for new rail infrastructure: –According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates 47,500 jobs. That means ARRIVE-21 could create some 2 million jobs.
–According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (ASSHTO), our freight railroads will need an additional $2.65 billion of public sector annual capital investment over the next 20 years to maintain their current share of total freight tonnage.
–ASSHTO also contends we need about $3 billion in annual public sector investment to expand intercity passenger rail services and advance high-speed rail corridors.