On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I urge your support for the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2014 (PRRIA) when it is considered by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee later this week. This important legislation funds and sustains a key component of our national transportation system, and we commend Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member Rahall, Subcommittee Chairman Denham and Subcommittee Ranking Member Brown for their leadership in crafting this bipartisan, compromise legislation.
This bill reauthorizes Amtrak for the next four years, improves rail infrastructure, and provides greater certainty to Amtrak and its employees as they implement long-term modernization plans. The bill also authorizes an additional $300 million for the Intercity Passenger Rail Program – to be split between the Northeast Corridor and other national routes – that will help strengthen our national passenger rail network, and create more diverse and reliable travel options for the public. The bill also codifies Buy America standards for the purchase of Amtrak’s rolling stock and track improvements through the established RRIF financing provisions.
Most importantly, PRRIA rejects wrongheaded reform proposals to privatize Amtrak, break up the operation, and outsource good middle class jobs. In doing so, the legislation affirms the need for a national Amtrak system as part of America’s interconnected transportation infrastructure.
We do, however, have concerns that PRRIA does not provide Amtrak with the funding levels required to meet the needs of an aging system and the demands of Americans for more passenger rail options. Amtrak carried a record 31.6 million passengers in FY 2013, and has set ridership records in 10 of the last 11 years. This comes at a time when insufficient budgets and bare-bones federal appropriations have allowed the system to age and deteriorate. As Amtrak’s annual budget requests have established, its aging fleet needs replacing and the system faces significant and disruptive renovations to tracks, bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure in the coming years. The authorization levels set in this bill – which would level out funding at current appropriations levels – do not provide the funds needed for these long term improvements. We remain committed, however, to working with this Committee and your counterparts in the Senate to set in motion a long-term vision for expanded investment in Amtrak.
The introduction and markup of this legislation is an important step in bringing long-term stability and investment to Amtrak and its workforce. It also continues the collaborative, bipartisan approach that Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Rahall have taken toward much needed transportation investments. We urge you to support PRRIA in Committee, and look forward to working with you to create the transportation network that Americans want and deserve.