U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) today announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee has accepted their amendment on a bi-partisan basis to restore $100 million in funding for High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail grants. As rail travel continues to grow in popularity as an alternative to other forms of transportation, this investment will create jobs by putting unemployed construction workers and private companies back to work upgrading our transportation infrastructure without adding one penny to America's debt.
"High speed rail funding is more than just creating short-term construction jobs. Every dollar we spend on rail produces $3 in economic output," said Durbin, a Co-Chair and founding member of the Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus. "We are already seeing the impact in Illinois where a $1.1 billion Recovery Act investment is putting construction crews to work upgrading infrastructure for high speed rail service from Chicago-to-St. Louis. Congress has maintained a commitment to high speed and intercity rail for over a decade. This amendment will continue that commitment and allow more communities in Illinois to benefit from faster, more reliable passenger rail service. I am grateful for the bipartisan support this modest investment received today and thank Senators Lautenberg, Feinstein and Landrieu for their efforts."
"Rail service is the lifeblood of New Jersey's economy and I will continue fighting to strengthen it for our commuters," said Senator Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and co-chair of the High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus. "These high speed rail grants will help the United States create a 21st century transportation system. We must make smart investments to expand high-speed rail in New Jersey and throughout the country."
Rail travel is experiencing consistent growth across America. In FY2010 Amtrak ridership hit a record high of 28.7 million passengers and ridership is on pace to break that record at the end of FY2011. States and communities around the country are eager for federal funds to help promote high speed and intercity rail. Last year, the Department of Transportation received nearly 100 applications for high speed rail funding, but only able to fulfill fewer than half of those requests.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA.) said, "California is ready and willing to put high-speed rail funds to work, creating thousands of jobs, modernizing the state's infrastructure and reducing pollution. I offered this amendment because we can't turn our backs on a project that will invest in the future and put Californians back to work."
"The funding for high speed rail provided in this bill is a worthwhile investment that will create jobs and provide easier and more convenient modes of transit. It is fully paid for and does not increase the deficit by a single penny," Senator Landrieu said. "I urge the state of Louisiana to pursue a portion of this funding to help complete a much-needed high-speed rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge."
The Durbin-Lautenberg-Feinstein-Landrieu amendment is completely paid for with unobligated funds for old earmarks and project funding that is slated to expire. These old and soon-to-expire earmarks are still on the books at the U.S. Department of Transportation and should be available for today's transportation infrastructure needs like high speed and intercity passenger rail.
The High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program -- created in June 2009 -- will help build an efficient, high-speed and emerging high speed passenger rail network connecting major population centers 100 to 600 miles apart. In the short-term, the program aims to aid economic recovery efforts and lay the foundation for this high-speed passenger rail network through targeted investments. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $8 billion was awarded nationwide under this program.