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The interstate Rail Compacts Advancement Act

May 20, 2021

Congressman Steve Cohen introduced the Interstate Rail Compacts Advancement Act on May 11th. This bill would create multi-state passenger rail commissions throughout the country, in an effort to promote regional coordination and sustain a passenger rail vision across America.

It’s important that states work together on their rail plans. Working together is the only way to achieve an integrated network. This is why our members support the creation of a large federal program to develop and promote a national plan for a high-speed rail network.

This is the latest in a series of bills aimed at investing in passenger rail in the US. It’s a great sign that we are primed for a major investment in trains this year.

 

Full press release from Congressman Steven Cohen:

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today introduced the Interstate Rail Compacts Advancement Act, a bill to create multi-state passenger rail commissions to promote regional coordination and sustain a vision of passenger rail service across America. 

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“Passenger rail is an essential connection for millions of Americans. Expanding this service would connect more communities to educational, economic and recreational opportunities that may not be accessible via air travel or to those without access to automobiles. Most intercity passenger rail serves a multi-state region, with passengers regularly traveling across state lines. However, regional collaboration to support passenger rail service is only as effective as coordination between Governors, State Departments of Transportation, and other relevant state and local officials and entities. By incentivizing states to create multi-state rail commissions, we can improve regional collaboration to support passenger rail service. In my home state, there is particular interest in connecting Memphis to Nashville, where a connection to Atlanta and Florida could hopefully be made. The ability to create a multi-state passenger rail commission would undoubtedly help to make this proposal a reality.”

The Intercity Rail Commission Act would:  

  • Incentivize the formation of up to ten passenger rail commissions by providing states with matching operating funds up to $500,000 per year per applicant; and
  • Task each commission with promoting intercity passenger rail and commuter rail passenger service, develop new or further existing intercity passenger rail, and provide technical assistance to communities to plan for new, restored, or expanded intercity passenger rail.

John Robert Smith, Chair of Transportation for America, said:

“Expanding intercity passenger rail service in the US requires a high degree of coordination and planning across state borders. The decades-long project to restore passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast spanning three states is a case in point, requiring funding and close coordination from three different states. By incentivizing other states to work together in this fashion with the promise of additional matching federal funds, this bill will foster the same kind of successful collaboration in other parts of the country to expand and improve the country’s long-neglected passenger rail network.”

Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, said:

"Rail can be a meaningful economic engine to the regions it serves, but only when those regions can work together to truly realize the benefits. This is why our Association strongly supports creating multiple interstate passenger rail commissions to sustain promoting, developing and operating service through enough years to truly make a difference. These commissions represent an important missing link in building a solid long-term structure to invest in our passenger rail services to make it the best it can be."

Trip Pollard, Senior Attorney and Land and Community Program Leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said:

“Public support for passenger rail has continued to grow, yet federal investment and the regional coordination needed to fuel a true rail renaissance throughout the country have been in short supply. The Intercity Rail Commission Act is an important step toward a new vision for passenger rail that will help improve our health and strengthen the economy while connecting our communities and slashing carbon pollution.”

Dave Strohmaier, Chairman of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority and Missoula County Commissioner, said:

“Strengthening our national passenger rail network requires multi-state coalitions. This bill will do just that. In my region, it will set the stage for the Greater Northwest Region to establish an interstate rail compact and commission to further our passenger rail goals.”

Knox Ross, Mississippi Commissioner of the Southern Rail Commission, said:

“We’d never be on the cusp of restoring passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast again without the Southern Rail Commission, a tri-state compact chartered by Congress years ago to coordinate this ambitious project. These kinds of passenger rail projects require a challenging level of coordination across city, region, and state boundaries. We are delighted to see Rep. Cohen’s move to expand and improve the model we’ve used on the Gulf Coast, and bring vital new funding for regions like ours and scores of others to help expand and improve the country’s passenger rail network.”

The Interstate Rail Compacts Advancement Act is also supported by the Rail Passengers Association and the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners. It is cosponsored by Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Danny K. Davis (IL) and Earl Blumenauer (OR). 

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