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Letter to the Honorable Daniel K. Inouye, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee; The Honorable Thad Cochran, Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee; The Honorable Patty Murray, Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee, and the Honorable Susan M. Collins, Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee - Regarding Transportation Grant Program Cuts

Today, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called on Senate Appropriations Committee leaders to protect funding for Amtrak, high-speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service, which are under attack by House Republicans. Lautenberg is the author of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act to strengthen Amtrak and broaden the passenger rail programs.

"The House Republican plan would cause the loss of jobs and create crippling congestion," stated Lautenberg. "In New Jersey, thousands of rail passengers who use Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor every day would be affected by more service disruptions and longer commutes. At a time when we need to create jobs and improve rail access, the Republican plan would take commuters out of trains and ensure that more cars pack our already congested highways."

"The nation needs a world class passenger rail system to help power the economy and keep people moving efficiently, and safely," said Rockefeller. "The House's short-sighted budget cuts would reverse the great progress we've made and hinder the job growth our rail industry supports. This cannot happen. A modern passenger rail network offers a real solution to the energy, environmental, and transportation congestion problems we face in the 21st century and we should continue to make investments in this infrastructure which will create jobs and make our rail system top notch."

The letter from Lautenberg and Rockefeller was cosigned by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

The following is the text of their letter:

March 3, 2011

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chairman Vice Chairman
Appropriations Committee Appropriations Committee
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Patty Murray The Honorable Susan M. Collins
Chairman Ranking Member
Transportation, Housing and Transportation, Housing and
Urban Development Urban Development
Appropriations Subcommittee Appropriations Subcommittee
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Inouye, Vice Chairman Cochran, Chairman Murray, and Ranking Member Collins:

We write to express our serious concern about the funding cuts to and rescission of the High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service and Amtrak grant programs that the House of Representatives passed as part of H.R. 1. As you develop the Senate's version of a continuing resolution to fund the Federal government, we urge you to reject these cuts and rescissions.

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) created clear direction for improving Amtrak's operations and the framework for development of a broader high speed and intercity passenger rail network. Since that time, the Administration and Amtrak have been working aggressively to implement PRIIA's requirements and have made substantial progress.

These programs and the projects that they fund will directly create several thousands of jobs in the short-term, support even more jobs in the long-term, encourage economic development, and vastly improve our transportation network. Congress must continue to provide the support we pledged in PRIIA to maintain progress toward these goals.

For the funding that Congress has provided to the PRIIA passenger rail grant programs since 2008 in annual appropriations and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Administration received an overwhelming number of applications. To date, it has competitively awarded all of the funds Congress had provided for these programs and completed the steps necessary to obligate a significant portion of those funds. The recipients have relied on the Administration's funding commitments to take the important steps to get these projects underway.

Amtrak has also diligently worked to implement the PRIIA provision by reducing its debt service needs, improving its equipment fleet, upgrading its long-distance services, and bringing stations and equipment into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Amtrak has been conscientious in meeting the deadlines under PRIIA to realize the vision that Congress set for its future. Reducing funding of Amtrak's capital and operating expenses to the House-passed levels would require Amtrak to furlough employees and negatively impact Amtrak's ability to maintain its current service levels, operate safely, and comply with the requirements set forth in PRIIA.

As you begin consideration of the continuing resolution, we urge you to reject the House's cuts and rescissions and to maintain the funding provided to Amtrak and the passenger rail programs. We appreciate your consistent support of Amtrak and the passenger rail programs and look forward to working with you on this important issue. Thank you for your consideration.

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