The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

State Government Officials, Advocacy Groups, Corporations and Unions Call for Federal Government to Finance Passenger Rail Development with “Highway-Style” Aid Program

The National Corridors Initiative is pleased to endorse the efforts of Rick Harnish, President of the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition., and Laura Kliewit, Director, of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, in support of passenger rail development in the United States. Their statement follows:

“Forty-seven groups, including citizen advocacy organizations, associations of state officials, unions and corporations announced today that they have signed on to the American Passenger Rail Agreement. The agreement advocates the development and preservation of a nationwide, interconnected passenger rail system and calls on Congress and the Bush Administration to provide passenger rail with funding, policy development and oversight comparable to that given to highway, civil aviation, transit and waterway programs.

“America needs a balanced, integrated transportation system and the American people need diverse transportation choices,” states the American Passenger Rail Agreement’s preamble. “Passenger rail is a critical component of a modern, multi-modal transportation system and needs to have financial support, unified policy development and oversight similar to that afforded to our air, highway and mass-transit modes.”

“It is significant that this broad range of groups has agreed on a common set of principles for setting passenger rail on the ‘right track’,” said Laura Kliewer, Director of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission. “The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), aviation programs and Amtrak all are up for reauthorization by Congress this year. From Boston to the state of Washington, from the South to the Midwest, we are committed to educating Members of Congress and the Administration on the importance of passenger rail to our national transportation system, and to seeing a revitalized, efficient, modern passenger rail system realized.”

“All transportation in the U.S. – except intercity passenger rail – relies on long-term programs of federal infrastructure development,” said Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. “Is it any wonder that rail is the least-developed mode of travel in this country? If rail is going to become more relevant and grow at a reasonable rate, it has to be brought under the same roof as the nation’s other transportation programs and given access to the same long-term federal funding, planning and oversight that made air and highway travel accessible to a wide range of Americans.”

The agreement was signed by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the giant Parsons-Brinckerhoff civil-engineering firm, the States for Passenger Rail Coalition (which represents 22 state departments of transportation) and groups ranging from the Boston-based National Corridors Initiative to the Washington Association of Railroad Passengers. The agreement calls on the federal government to “establish a dedicated, multi-year federal capital-funding program for intercity passenger rail, patterned after the existing federal highway, airport and mass-transit programs.”

“Federal funding is the key,” said Rick Harnish, president of the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition. “All of the nation’s transportation programs struggled helplessly for decades until they won federal funding – first the highways in 1916, then the inland waterways in 1919, then the airports in 1946, and finally mass transit in 1975.

“Designing and building transportation infrastructure is a long-term process that requires steady, predictable funding over a multi-year time frame. Annual congressional appropriations are too unpredictable to fund the civil-engineering improvements we need to make passenger train service fast, frequent and reliable.”

The agreement signed in Chicago also urges the Federal Railroad Administration or a similar agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation to “develop, fund and oversee” a new federal railroad-development policy, much as the Federal Aviation Administration plans and funds airport and air-traffic control improvements and the Federal Highway Administration develops the Interstate system.

The final statement in the American Passenger Rail Agreement calls upon Congress to provide full funding for Amtrak while a more advanced passenger rail system is being designed, so the national passenger rail operator can keep its nationwide fleet of trains operating and improve service levels.

“Passenger trains represent the next great leap in American mobility, but they will need billions of dollars of new track, new grade separations, new stations and high-tech signaling to become effective. Only the federal government can provide that kind of oversight and funding,” said Joe Szabo of the United Transportation Union.

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