Photo: Bob Johnson

The infrastructure bill could release federal funds to support the launch of more inter-city and regional passenger services across the USA.

USA: Rail associations have welcomed the passage of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act through the upper house of the US Congress on August 10, marking the latest step in the process to pass a bi-partisan infrastructure bill which could deliver significant funding streams for main line and urban rail enhancements.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, the legislation includes funding allocations worth $102bn for main line freight and passenger railways, an increase of 561% on current levels, and $107bn for urban public transport projects.

‘This proposed legislation is a vital and necessary step to provide the transformational investment in public transportation infrastructure that our country so desperately needs’, said APTA President & CEO Paul Skoutelas. ‘It includes approximately $107bn for public transit and $102bn for commuter rail, Amtrak, and other high-performance rail. It also offers a wealth of opportunities for multimodal investments that will include public transit and passenger rail as essential elements.’

The Association of American Railroads, which primarily represents private freight railways, also welcomed the progress of the legislation. ‘Throughout this year’s infrastructure conversations, the Senate has remained clear-eyed and committed to building consensus around a package that could help pave the way to future economic growth’, said President & CEO Ian Jefferies. ‘Today, it delivered. Railroads applaud the Senate and the Biden administration on their leadership.’

Among the potential programmes to benefit from the funding boost would be level crossing safety ($845m) and Discretionary Infrastructure Grants (up to $5∙55bn per annum), including $1bn per year for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Improvement programme which supports short lines, some passenger operators and state transport departments.

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President Biden is a high profile supporter of passenger rail, addressing Amtrak’s 50th anniversary celebrations earlier this year.

The legislation would also enhance the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing Programme and provide significant funding for inter-city passenger services, including specific allocations to address maintenance backlogs on the Northeast Corridor.

It also includes funding for railway research and development ‘that will play an important role in creating and further refining technologies that will help railroads to continue reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and further address climate change’, said AAR.

Welcoming the Senate vote, Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia said the legislation ‘represents more than just this country’s greatest level of investment in Amtrak and infrastructure in the past 50 years. It also highlights America’s commitment to updating the rail network and improving the passenger experience for years to come.

‘Amtrak is ready to rebuild core infrastructure, replace equipment and, with the Federal Railroad Administration and state partners, bring more Amtrak service to more people across the nation, creating thousands of new jobs and reducing America’s carbon footprint’, he added.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on it in the autumn.