WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and a vocal proponent of boosting investment in the Northeast Corridor, along with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), led two key initiatives to tackle the nation’s rail state-of-good-repair (SOGR) backlog and increase funding for important transportation infrastructure and safety programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget. In a letter to U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD), Murphy requested that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail (IPR) grant program be funded at the full $1.5 billion to maintain and improve rail infrastructure and rider experience. Meeting this funding level is a necessary step to fully address the nation’s rail SOGR backlog while improving and expanding intercity passenger rail. Full funding for the FRA IPR grants program would help address the backlog while stimulating stagnant rail expansion programs.

“According to the Northeast Corridor Commission, ‘[t]he loss of the NEC for a single day could cost the country $100 million in added congestion, productivity losses, and other transportation impacts.’ If Congress does not make the necessary investments, disruptions will become more frequent and more severe over time. While the IIJA made a significant down payment to help address this SOGR backlog, it is simply not enough given the years of underinvestment and the age of the assets. Without sufficient annual appropriations to supplement the IIJA, many of the NEC’s most critical projects will not advance.”

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Bernie Sanders (I-N.H.) also signed the letter, available HERE.

Murphy also led the request to Chairman Schatz and Ranking Member Hyde-Smith calling for at least $150 million for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the FY25 THUD Appropriations bill. This request, which would mark a $10 million increase from the FY24 funding level, aims to improve NTSB’s ability to assess accidents swiftly and effectively.

“NTSB has only eleven railroad investigators, and three are now eligible for retirement. Those eleven investigators are currently working on twenty-three open rail investigations (including nine involving passenger trains). Further, NTSB currently has only two hazardous materials investigators to support investigations for all modes; these investigators are currently supporting three open investigations. Two pipeline investigators are currently working on two open pipeline investigations. While we have continually urged NTSB to complete its investigations as quickly as possible, the ability of the Board to speedily conclude such reviews is limited by its relatively small investigatory staff and the large number of matters requiring simultaneous investigation. Our funding request would allow the agency to move towards its target of 455 full-time equivalent employees to fully staff the NTSB. In addition, our request would allow the agency to continue its initiatives to stabilize its workforce and improve investigative capabilities involving emerging transportation technologies, including in rail. This request would also allow the agency to make programmatic investments in cybersecurity, system enhancements, and data analytics that would allow NTSB to keep pace with modern threats to transit safety.”

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also signed the letter, available HERE.