Washington, D.C. — U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders introduced bipartisan legislation that they said improves the infrastructure, reduces costs, leverages private sector resources, creates greater accountability and transparency, and accelerates project delivery for Amtrak and the nation’s passenger rail transportation system.
The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2014, or PRRIA (H.R. 5449), was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA); T&I Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV); Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA); and Subcommittee Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-FL).
“The reality is intercity passenger rail plays an important role in our national transportation network,” Shuster said. “Congress can either sit back while Amtrak and our passenger rail system continue to muddle along without reforms and without improvements, or we can take significant steps forward in improving Amtrak’s transparency and cost-effectiveness, and compelling it to operate like a true business should. I commend Chairman Denham for his leadership on this legislation.”
“This bill provides much-needed investments in the long-distance network and ensures continuation of all long-distance trains, including the Cardinal Route that runs through southern West Virginia,” Rahall said. “Reliable passenger rail service helps move our economy forward and is critical to communities across our nation. I appreciate the bipartisan work that went into drafting this bill, and I look forward to advancing it through our committee.”
“The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act will bring our nation’s rail system into the 21st century,” Denham said. “It reduces costs, strengthens crucial infrastructure, and encourages innovation through partnerships with the states and the private sector. The bill will require Amtrak to operate more like a business and force them to be accountable and transparent to taxpayers.”
“This bipartisan bill is a good first step in providing the systemwide investment and operational improvements that Amtrak needs to serve its steadily increasing ridership,” Brown said.
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.
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