Author Topic: What’s in the Infrastructure Package for Passenger Rail?  (Read 596 times)

adroth

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What’s in the Infrastructure Package for Passenger Rail?
« on: November 17, 2021, 02:23:08 AM »
What’s in the Infrastructure Package for Passenger Rail? (Updated)
Written by David Peter Alan, Contributing Editor

https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/whats-in-the-infrastructure-bill-for-passenger-rail/

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It is a huge document, totaling about 2,700 pages of text, and reviewing only the provisions that relate to passenger rail required several hours.

Accordingly, this article cannot serve as a thorough guide to the rail-related provisions. It can only provide a brief overview of the relevant parts and where to find them. A thorough analysis of only the rail-related provisions would fill a book. A detailed analysis of the entire package would require a multi-volume treatise.

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The package is designated H.R. 3684 and titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). There are a number of other Acts contained within it, including the Surface Transportation Act of 2021 (codified as Division B of the overall bill). The full text of the legislation can be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3684/text.

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Amtrak Reform
Subtitle B, beginning at §22201, calls for certain reforms at Amtrak. Perhaps the most significant is a change in Amtrak’s mission, noted at §22201(a). The new legislation amends 49 U.S.C. §24101(a) to strike a former mission statement that Amtrak “achieve a performance level sufficient to justify expending public money” and substitute a mission statement containing the words “in order to meet the intercity passenger rail needs of the United States.” Both intercity passengers and commuters are now considered important constituencies, as are both rural and “major urban” communities. Other new language states: “Long-distance routes are valuable resources of the United States that are used by rural and urban communities.” This change in Amtrak’s stated mission may be one of the most significant developments in the entire bill; at least in theory.

Amtrak also has new Congressional direction toward achieving its goals, under §22201(b)(1), which appears to eliminate the long-hated micro-management provisions championed by former Republican Rep. John Mica. It replaces them with new orders for Amtrak to “use its best business judgment in acting to maximize the benefits of Federal investments,” also specifying some examples. They include: “offering competitive fares, increasing revenue from the transportation of mail and express, offering food service that meets the needs of its customers, improving its contacts with rail carriers over whose tracks Amtrak operates, controlling or reducing management and operating costs, and providing economic benefits to the communities it serves” (letter designations omitted). Amtrak is also “encouraged to make agreements with private-sector entities and to undertake initiatives that are consistent with good business judgment and designed to general additional revenues” (§22201(d)) to achieve its goals.

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