House Committee Advances Passenger Rail Bill
- Transparency. PRRIA would require Amtrak to provide updated cost and service information to states, improve the transparency of its budgeting, and conduct a "business case analysis" for the procurement of rolling stock of over $100 million.
- Planning. The bill would require Amtrak to develop a capital investment plan, asset management plan, and service development plan for the Northeast Corridor. Further, the bill requires Amtrak to submit a five-year capital and operating plan for the entire Amtrak system. PRRIA would require an independent evaluation of Amtrak's long-distance routes, which typically have the lowest ridership, on-time performance, and cost effectiveness in the Amtrak network. Additionally, PRRIA includes a new provision that prevents U.S. DOT from granting more than $1 billion to a rail project unless the applicant proves it can fully fund its non-federal share of project costs.
- Private Investment. PRRIA would allow the private sector to use Amtrak right-of-way for telecommunications systems, energy distribution systems, and other activities. Also, the bill encourages private development around Amtrak stations. Further, it would encourage private railroads to tap into the underutilized Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program by streamlining the loan approval process.
Chicago is the hub for Amtrak's Midwestern services and is planned as a future hub in the national high-speed rail system. As noted in a previous Policy Update, the broader tri-state metropolitan Chicago region attracted about 3.7 million riders in 2012, making up 6 percent of total Amtrak ridership at that time. This marks a 64-percent increase in area ridership since 1997, which is a significantly higher rate of growth than Amtrak's national average. GO TO 2040 supports strategic investment in transportation and an increased investment in transit, both of which would be supported to some extent by PRRIA, which seeks to take a more transparent, performance-based approach to the national passenger rail system. CMAP will continue monitoring progress on this bill as it makes its way through the legislative process.