Little Rock-Memphis High-Speed Rail Study One Step Closer To Reality
A feasibility study on the potential for high-speed rail between Memphis and Little Rock is one step closer to being funded. Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-9) today succeeded in getting additional federal funding for the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Research and Development account that could be used to complete the Congressionally-approved study.
The Cohen measure was included as part of H.R. 3288, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act of 2010 that passed the House early this evening.
"For our region, high speed rail will improve access between the largest cities in Tennessee and Arkansas. Investing in high-speed rail will further reduce our dependence on foreign oil, lower gas costs as well as congestion and accidents on our already overcrowded streets," Congressman Cohen said.
"More importantly, investing in high-speed rail in our region means jobs - lots of them. Not just good-paying construction jobs, but the jobs that will be created from companies that chose to invest in Memphis because of the affordable and efficient transportation that high-speed rail can offer to their employees," Congressman Cohen said. "This is a real win-win."
Congressman Cohen - a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - joined with Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) and Zach Space (D-OH) in securing an additional $3 million in federal funding to conduct railroad research and development nationwide. A portion of that funding could be used to fund the Memphis study that was approved last year as part of the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act signed into law last year.
In his remarks on the House floor, Congressman Cohen noted that the centralized location of the city of Memphis has given rise to an important complex network of transportation hubs and resources, earning it the title of "North America's Distribution Center."
Five Class I railroads (Burlington Northern Sante Fe, Union Pacific, Canadian National/Illinois Central, CSX and Norfolk Southern) run through Memphis, making it one of the most important rail hubs in the nation.
Along with additional funding to undertake high-speed rail studies, the legislation will address the challenges of keeping our transportation system safe, secure and up-to-date. The bill also improves and repairs our nation's aging highway system and modernizes our air traffic control system to make travel safer, easier and more efficient.
"Rebuilding and modernizing our roads, public transit and railways is overdue and absolutely necessary to maintain our safety and security and help minimize our dependence on foreign oil," Congressman Cohen said. "It's also a key tenet of our long-term economic plan and will pave the way for a new clean energy economy."
To ensure that all Americans have access to housing and shelter during this economic crisis, the bill increases funding for rental vouchers and housing assistance for the neediest Americans - the disabled, elderly and homeless veterans. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act also invests in counseling to help families who are at risk of foreclosure stay in their homes and weather the mortgage crisis.
In order to spur economic development in vacant urban commercial and industrial sites, the bill invests in grant programs that revitalize neighborhoods and turn deserted areas into commercial destinations. The legislation also encourages economic development in rural communities by establishing a fund to drive rural innovation and entrepreneurship and support small businesses.
"Americans are struggling right now," Congressman Cohen said. "We must provide immediate relief to those who have lost their homes and their jobs in this tough economy. At the same time, we have to make fiscally responsible decisions that will propel and grow our economy in the long run."