Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Bill To Revitalize Amtrak Moves Forward, Heads To Senate Floor"

More good news regarding the nations passenger rail.

Press Release of Senator Lautenberg

Lautenberg Bill To Revitalize Amtrak Moves Forward, Heads To Senate Floor

Integral Part of $19.2 Billion Package Will Put Nation's Passenger Rail
System Back On Track

Contact: Michael Pagan (202) 228-6393
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Legislation Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Trent
Lott (R-MS) sponsored to authorize full funding for America's passenger rail
needs for the next six years today was approved unanimously by the Senate
Commerce Committee and moved one step closer to becoming law. Sens.
Lautenberg and Lott authored similar legislation in 2005 that was approved
by the Senate by a vote of 93 to 6, but was not taken up by the House of
Representatives. The Lautenberg-Lott measure -- the Passenger Rail
Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 -- would authorize $11.4 billion in
federal funds for Amtrak and other rail passenger rail programs over six
years. Sens. Lautenberg and Lott have also proposed providing another $7.8
billion over six years for passenger rail development through the issuance
of federal bonds to States and Amtrak. This proposal is awaiting
consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.

The funds would be used to implement a comprehensive plan to revitalize and
reform Amtrak that would enhance security, put new on-time service standards
in place and make fundamental operational reforms in order to provide the
best quality service to its passengers. In addition, the legislation would
put the passenger rail system on solid financial footing with predictable
levels of capital and operational funding, a debt refinancing plan, and a
new financial accounting system.

"After several gloomy years, the future of America's passenger railroad is
bright. Our legislation will provide the necessary resources to bring Amtrak
up to speed as a real alternative to taking a plane or driving a car," said
Lautenberg. "People in New Jersey rely on Amtrak and want to be sure that
the system will be there for them in the future. With this plan, it will."

More than 25 million Americans ride Amtrak every year, and with the
increased congestion in America's airports and on its highways, passenger
rail is a vital alternative for intercity travel throughout the country.

The Lautenberg plan contains the following provisions:

• Funding Levels -- the six-year authorization plan, coupled with the
bonding proposal, would fully-fund Amtrak by authorizing $3.2 billion a year
for six years: $1.9 billion in annual appropriations and another $1.3
billion annually in bond authority.

• New State Grant Program -- included in the $3.2 billion annual total is
an average of $237 million in capital grants to states.

Improving the Northeast Corridor

• Northeast Corridor up to State-of-Good Repair -- the bill will provide
sufficient funding (100 percent federal) and direction to bring the
Northeast Corridor up to a "state-of-good-repair," including vital tunnel
life safety work in the Hudson River Tunnels.

• Improve Governance of Northeast Corridor -- the bill would improve
governance in the Northeast Corridor by giving States like New Jersey a
bigger voice in infrastructure and operations decisions.

Amtrak "Reform" Provisions to Reduce Annual Appropriations

• Operational Reforms -- the bill reduces Amtrak's annual appropriations
need by requiring certain reforms, expected to reduce Amtrak's operating
costs by 40 percent over the life of the bill.

• Debt Refinancing - the bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to
attempt to refinance Amtrak's $3 billion in outstanding debt.

• New financial accounting system - the bill requires a new financial
accounting system for Amtrak to provide more transparency and better control

Provisions that will Improve Rail Service

• New Service Quality Standards - the bill would improve service for
passengers by requiring new standards for service quality (on-time
performance, on-board and station services, cost recovery, connectivity,
etc.) and by requiring periodic reporting of Amtrak's performance of these
measures by the Federal Railroad Administration.

• Improve Delays -- the bill would authorize the federal Surface
Transportation Board to issue fines to freight railroads who delay Amtrak

• Sets a Level Playing Field for Competition -- the bill ensures that any
private entity who competes against Amtrak complies with the same federal
laws that apply to Amtrak.

Other Provisions—Security and Board of Directors

• Amtrak Rail Security -- the bill includes a security title, which will
require important rail security improvements to the entire U.S. rail system.

• Restructure Board of Directors -- the bill would restructure the board
of directors by ensuring a bipartisan 9-member board of qualified members.
The bill is cosponsored by 37 Senators. ###