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$77 Billion Highway Trust Fund Subsidy

November 11, 2015

You've heard it over and over; highways pay for themselves through user fees. Like all myths it had a grain of truth, originally the federal Highway Trust Fund was entirely funded by taxes on users. 

However, for the last decade, Congress has subsidized the Trust Fund with billions of dollars from the general revenue pool every year.

Now, Congress is very close to approving a $77 billion transfer of general revenue to the Highway Trust Fund, another bailout. This gives them no excuse now for not funding passenger rail as well.

The bill that is working its way through the Conference Committee has direct appropriations for highways and transit, but only authorizations for intercity passenger rail.  

Here is what Congress needs to include in the final bill:

•    Make sure the Senate's rail title stays in the final bill.

The Senate included a rail title in their version of the bill. This is the first time that passenger rail has been incorporated into the long-term transportation plan -- giving passenger rail a true voice. The House, on the other hand, does not mention rail in their version of the bill. It is important for this title to remain in the final bill.

•    Give states and local authorities full flexibility with the $77 billion.

Currently the proposal restricts this money to be used only for road projects. Due to the fact that this money is being taken from general revenue there is no reason the money cannot be used towards other transportation projects at the discretion of the local communities.  Congress should allow this flexibility and have the communities make the decisions on what needs the investment.

•    Give $4 billion in dedicated funding for intercity passenger rail.

While the Senate has included a rail title neither the House nor Senate’s version of the bill provides a dedicated funding source. To address Amtrak’s growing demand and the need for an upgraded train system Congress must restore, at a minimum, funding to the FY2010 levels when they invested $4 billion in trains.

It is critical that the Conference Committee make these points a priority and include them in the final bill. 

This Friday, November 13, you can make your voice heard during the National Day of Action and tell Congress to fund passenger rail in it's long-term transportation bill.


Shira Orlowek
Operations Manager

Last Week at MHSRA:

Rick Harnish spoke to the International Right of Way Association in Springfield.

Articles We Enjoyed:

The Chicago-to-St. Louis higher-speed rail project nears finish line
"It’s been nearly six years since Illinois received a $1.1 billion federal grant to bring high-speed passenger rail to the state...All the upgrades are expected to reduce the entire five-and-a-half-hour train journey from Chicago to St. Louis by about an hour."

Joe Mathews: California’s high-speed rail should look like Germany’s
"If California high-speed rail can reproduce the German style and create a system that deeply binds the state together – and that’s a big if – then even a $100 billion project might be a bargain."

Metro’s New Vision for Union Station (LA)
"The master plan celebrates Union Station’s rich history, and the animated video shows an updated vision of changes coming to the Downtown LA landmark."

Why We Can’t Think Straight About Public Spending: California High-Speed Rail, and the Latest USAF Bomber
"If previous transportation infrastructure investments are a gauge of future infrastructure investment longevity then HSR will be in use for many decades and even when obsolete will leave a right of way that can be reused."

Upcoming Events:

- Join us for lunch with keynote speaker and transportation leader Kathy Haley at Maggianos in Chicago, IL on November 13th. Click here to learn more and sign-up.

- We are planning a Japan High-Speed Rail Tour in October of 2016. 

This trip will give everyone an opportunity to enjoy the rich history of train travel the country offers. We are creating an itinerary that includes riding the first high-speed rail line, visiting at least one railroad museum and meetings with experts in the field. We have already begun making contacts to arrange technical visits and train tours. Once we have received 10 fully-refundable deposits we will finalize the details of the trip.

Please click here if you would like to learn more or are interested in joining the trip.

Please click here if you are ready to make a $500 fully-refundable deposit for the trip.

Shira Orlowek
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625