MURPHY LEADS SENATORS IN CALL FOR INCREASED RAIL INVESTMENT ALONG NORTHEAST CORRIDOR

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), and Related Agencies Subcommittee, led a group of senators in urging increased funding for rail investment along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). In a letter addressed to Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), THUD Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and THUD Subcommittee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the senators reiterated that that backlog of improvement and maintenance projects are holding back economic growth along the rail line. The senators urge the Appropriations Committee to increase funding for the NEC Grants program to at least $500 million in a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Omnibus funding package.

“The economic impact of the NEC cannot be overstated: seven million jobs are located within five miles of a station on the line; workers who ride the NEC contribute $50 billion annually to the U.S. economy; and a loss of the NEC for a single day costs the U.S. $100 million in travel delays and lost productivity. However…the NEC has a state of good repair backlog of over $28 billion. The NEC’s most heavily trafficked bridges and tunnels are well over a century old: the Norwalk Bridge in Connecticut was constructed while Grover Cleveland was president, while construction of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel began while Ulysses S. Grant was president,” wrote the senators. “The investment we seek in the Omnibus package would begin to address the yawning backlog of state-of-good-repair projects to help Amtrak, Metro-North, and other commuter railroads meet future ridership along the corridor.”

Murphy recently led an effort calling for more rail safety funding and improvements along the NEC. He also joined Senate Democrats in announcing a plan to invest $1 trillion in transportation infrastructure to rebuild America’s infrastructure projects over the next ten years and create 15 million jobs. America’s deteriorating infrastructure already costs the economy close to $200 billion a year.

Joining Murphy in signing the letter were U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

The full text of the letter is available online and below:                                     

The Honorable Thad Cochran                                        The Honorable Patrick Leahy Chairman                     
Chairman                                                                      Vice Chairman
Committee on Appropriations                                        Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate                                                     United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510                                               Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Susan Collins                                        The Honorable Jack Reed                                                 
Chairwoman                                                                Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on                     Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on
Transportation, Housing and Urban                             Transportation, Housing and Urban
Development, and Related Agencies                            Development, and Related Agencies
United States Senate                                                   United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510                                              Washington, D.C. 20510

Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman Collins, and Ranking Member Reed,

As you continue negotiations regarding a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Omnibus package, we write to urge you to increase funding for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Grants program to at least $500 million. The NEC is a national asset the country is at dire risk of losing absent serious and sustained investments. The effects of that potential loss would reverberate through every aspect of our economy, while roiling the commutes of the tens of millions of Americans who rely on the NEC every year.

The economic impact of the NEC cannot be overstated: seven million jobs are located within five miles of a station on the line; workers who ride the NEC contribute $50 billion annually to the U.S. economy; and a loss of the NEC for a single day costs the U.S. $100 million in travel delays and lost productivity. However, as the full Committee noted in its report accompanying the FY17 THUD bill, the NEC has a state of good repair backlog of over $28 billion. The NEC’s most heavily trafficked bridges and tunnels are well over a century old: the Norwalk Bridge in Connecticut was constructed while Grover Cleveland was president, while construction of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel began while Ulysses S. Grant was president. The investment we seek in the Omnibus package would begin to address the yawning backlog of state-of-good-repair projects to help Amtrak, Metro-North, and other commuter railroads meet future ridership along the corridor.

Congress strongly affirmed its commitment for robust investments in passenger rail in the NEC by passing the FAST Act in December 2015 with broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. As you know, the bill included the five-year authorization of both passenger and freight rail transportation programs, thereby bringing all surface transportation modes together within a single authorization bill for the first time. The bill also included new grant programs that improve rail safety, like the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, and that incent collaboration among stakeholders along the NEC. Unfortunately, to date, Congress has yet to appropriate funds to the FAST Act’s newly authorized rail accounts. (As you recall, the FAST Act was signed into law shortly before Congress passed the FY16 Omnibus spending bill, and to date Congress has not passed an FY17 spending bill.) Simply put, we cannot let the third year of this widely supported five-year authorization pass by without appropriating the NEC Grants program to at least its maximum authorized level.

On behalf of our millions of constituents who depend on a safe and reliable rail network, we once again urge you to include this increased investment in the NEC. We appreciate your attention to this matter.

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