Two U.S. congressional committees have advanced dramatically different transportation bills in recent weeks as rail advocates continue their push to ensure the final bill is pro-rail.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee voted June 9 on a mostly party-line basis (38-26) to approve a bill to reauthorize surface transportation programs. While the bill includes robust funding levels for many programs, it contains provisions that could undercut the ability of freight railroads to serve as a foundation of our multi-modal infrastructure network.
The following week, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced a largely bipartisan (25-3) transportation bill. Applauded by the Association of American Railroads, it reflects consensus provisions focused on vital funding needs and safety. Previously, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had also passed a bipartisan bill authorizing the transportation programs under their jurisdiction.
Rail Advocates Weigh In
Ahead of each committee’s votes, GoRail organized letters with more than 100 signers advocating for bipartisan, pro-rail transportation bills. The letter to House T&I members was signed by 110 constituents and the letter to Senate Commerce members contained 102 signers from the senators’ home states. Over 700 grassroots emails were also generated to members of Congress in support of a pro-rail bill.
The letters point to the key role freight railroads can play in fostering continued economic recovery while helping to address the threat of global climate change, two of the goals of the legislation.
“Because a train can carry the load of several hundred trucks, railroads ease burdens on the nation’s highways and bridges while also reducing congestion and emitting 75% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per ton-mile,” constituents write in the letters.
The letters also call on legislators to:
- ensure infrastructure bills require highway users to pay the full cost of their infrastructure damage;
- increase funding for grade crossing projects and other programs that allow railroads to partner with the public sector;
- avoid subsidies and double-standards that allow some modes to innovate and advance while holding railroads and competition back;
- provide ample funding for Amtrak;
- and preserve the balanced economic regulations that allow railroads to continue their massive network investments.
The House of Representatives plans to bring the T&I bill to the full House the week of June 28. Also, this all takes place against the backdrop of broader negotiations in Washington, D.C., over additional infrastructure funding above-and-beyond what these traditional surface transportation bills cover.
We strongly believe that policy should help foster freight-by-rail movements and avoid measures that would undercut railroads’ ability to compete. Thank you to those of you who signed these letters and to those of you who sent emails to your representatives in the nation’s capital. As infrastructure negotiations continue into the summer, we will continue to need your support. Stay up to date by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.