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Coalition Calls for National Day of Action on Nov. 13 to Advocate for Rational Transportation Funding

November 12, 2015

Release #15-25

For Immediate Release (#15-25)

Contact: Benet J. Wilson

443/838-7033 mobile

WASHINGTON, D.C. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) is leading a coalition of rail groups taking part in a national day of action for passengers to ensure Congressional negotiators include passenger trains in talks to reconcile the Senate and House transportation bills.

Organizations participating include the Colorado Rail Passenger Association, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, Virginians for High Speed Rail, Texas Rail Advocates, Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail, the Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers and All Aboard Washington.

The coalition wants to ensure that any multi-year transportation bill gives states and Amtrak the tools needed to build a 21st Century rail transportation system. Participants will spend the day contacting their congressional delegations -- especially those on the conference committee -- and asking that they include three simple provisions in a final bill:

1. Include passenger rail as part of a comprehensive surface transportation bill: The Senate included passenger rail as part of the DRIVE Act, the first time it has been included as part a truly comprehensive multi-year surface transportation bill. Now it’s time for the full Congress to ensure that passengers have a seat at the transportation table.

2. Allow for flexibility in investing the $77 billion in general revenue used to fund the surface transportation bill: Since 2008, Congress has subsidized the Highway Trust Fund to the tune of $75 billion. Now, Congress is considering diverting another $77 billion to keep the fund afloat. There’s no reason these general funds must only be used for road projects. Congress should grant communities the flexibility to invest these funds to best address local transportation challenges—whether it’s a roadway, a railway, a bus line, or new equipment.

3. Include predictable, dedicated funding for passenger rail, and restore funding to FY2010 levels, when Congress invested $4 billion in trains: The U.S. passenger rail system has been struggling to meet surging demand with stagnant resources. Congress must provide a trust fund so that the states and Amtrak can invest with confidence. While the Senate’s DRIVE Act is slightly better than the House’s STRR Act, neither one addresses the significant challenges states and Amtrak face in building a 21st Century rail system. For FY2016, we’re asking Congress to restore passenger rail funding to the $4 billion invested in FY 2010, and sustain that level across the life of the transportation bill.

The coalition strongly supports key provisions of the Senate's Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, including a doubling of Amtrak’s authorization levels, offering a greater voice to the National Network in passenger rail planning, and incentivize restoring and expanding train service.

"We can no longer afford to neglect the system that nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit depend on as their chief mode of transportation. This is why our coalition is using the national day of action to appeal to conferees for help in properly funding this important transportation mode," said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. "Congress can ensure that passengers who depend on safe and reliable train systems are helped by passing a transportation bill that includes dedicated and predictable rail funding."

About the National Association of Railroad Passengers

NARP is the only national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.