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Weekly Newsletter: Senate Leaders Fast Track Transportation Bill

July 29, 2015

The Senate has been working long hours to move their version of the transportation bill forward. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) are fast tracking a bill that includes re-authorizing intercity passenger rail.

The bill, known as the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, would give guaranteed funding to highways and transit.  Amtrak and intercity passenger rail would be re-authorized, but still have to seek annual appropriations.

We are celebrating that intercity passenger rail authorization is included and that pro-transit senators fought to maintain the traditional 80-20 ratio between highway and transit projects.

However, we are concerned about the lack of attention the direct transfer of general revenue funds into the Highway Trust Fund is getting.  It is past time to do away with the myth that highways are self-supporting through gas taxes so that we can make better decisions about funding splits.

Passage of this bill has been tied to re-authorizing the Export - Import Bank, which Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has vowed to block.  Also, the House's bill is radically different than the Senate's.

Time is running out.  The current transportation authorization runs out Friday.

This will be a fun week for political junkies.

Last Week at MHSRA:

MHSRA representatives attended the Metra Board meeting and made public comments on CrossRail Chicago's O'Hare direct portion.

Articles We Enjoyed:

St. Paul's $246 million Union Depot: historic, grand, underused
"About $243 million was spent renovating St. Paul’s historic Union Depot to its past glory. It opened in December 2012, and passenger rail returned with Amtrak’s Empire Builder in 2014...In addition to Amtrak's Empire Builder, Union Depot serves as a hub for long-range, intercity bus lines and local bus and light rail routes."

Stars Aligning for Cincinnati to Chicago High-Speed Rail
"Local support continues to grow for increased service on Cincinnati’s tri-weekly train to Indianapolis and Chicago."

Grand Rapids, Detroit train idea taking shape
"The idea of connecting Michigan’s two largest cities by train is gaining appeal on both sides of the state as each undergo economic and cultural revivals making passenger service more appealing to business travelers and tourists."

Commuters increasingly glued to electronics boots ridership; report
“Heavy users of mobile technology are finding train travel to be particularly amenable to their digitally oriented lives. Many relish the idea of using their devices from origin to destination, giving this historic mode of travel a new competitive edge.”

Talking Headways Podcast: High-Speed Rail Lessons from France and Germany
"delves into the importance of station location, land uses for station areas, integrating walking and biking with stations, and having a 50-year view of planning these projects. And of course, you won’t want to miss lessons for California’s planned system going forward."

High-Speed Rail Remains Elusive in the US
"The U.S. has never built a single mile of high-speed rail, which is generally defined as accommodating trains that go at least 200 mph. And proposals to do so have been thwarted for decades...So what’s holding America back?"

Upcoming Events:

NARP Fall 2015 Council Membership Meeting in Indianapolis, IN October 17-18. Optional Tour of Amtrak's Beach Grove facility October 16. The meeting is open to all NARP members and other interested rail advocates.
Learn more here.

P3 Infrastructure Summit 2015 In New York City - October 14-15, 2015

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