MURPHY REQUESTS $555 MILLION FOR NEW NORTHEAST CORRIDOR SAFETY IMPROVEMENT FUND

Murphy: “not addressing this…could mean anything from incessant delays to a looming disaster for the millions of people who depend on the rail lines every day.”

WASHINGTON – Today, in wake of last week’s fatal derailment of a New York-bound Amtrak train, 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, called on U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, to ensure that the Northeast Corridor gets all of the investments it needs to provide safe passage for the millions of customers who travel along its rail lines each year. Murphy requested that the Chairwoman and Ranking Member work alongside him to provide flexibility from the Budget Control Act, which imposes draconian annual spending caps on the Subcommittee, and to dedicate a $555.8 million capital fund proposed for the Northeast Corridor in President Obama's budget to rail safety improvements in the stretch of rail from Boston to Washington D.C.. The fund – which would be the first of its kind dedicated to the Northeast Corridor – would be used to address dangerous conditions along the tracks due to decades of deferred capital projects.

The Northeast Corridor, the busiest rail route in the nation, needs upwards of $52 billion in investments over the next 20 years just to keep current assets, including rail, bridges, and tunnels, in a state-of-good-repair. Murphy believes it is Congress’s responsibility to make the investments needed to make rail travel safer and more reliable.

In a separate letter earlier this year, Murphy called on Collins and Reed to fully fund President Obama’s PRIIA Section 212 Capital Grant request to upgrade the Northeast Corridor’s infrastructure and to address the backlog of state-of-good-repair projects along the rail line.

“The terrible tragedy in Philadelphia is only the most recent reminder of the tremendous backlog of basic repairs and safety upgrades we have accumulated as the result of years of underinvestment in this critical asset. I write to reiterate my earlier request to the Committee for full funding of the PRIIA Section 212 Capital Grant request, and incorporate those funds into a Northeast Corridor Safety Grant Program to help target desperately needed rail safety and basic infrastructure improvements along the Corridor. This request is consistent with the President’s budget request, and was born out of the recommendations made by the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission. I look forward to working with you to robustly fund programs that are mutually important to our constituents.”

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

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

Chairwoman Collins and Ranking Member Reed,

As you develop the Fiscal Year 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I want to be your partner to ensure that Amtrak and the critical Northeast Corridor in particular receive the necessary investment to provide safe passage for the millions of customers who travel along its rail lines each year. The terrible tragedy in Philadelphia is only the most recent reminder of the tremendous backlog of basic repairs and safety upgrades we have accumulated as the result of years of underinvestment in this critical asset.

The Northeast Corridor Commission has estimated that the amount of investment needed to address the state-of-good-repair backlog today is $21.1 billion—and absent robust infrastructure and safety improvements, this backlog will balloon in the future. Over the course of the next twenty years, the Commission estimates the Corridor will require approximately $52 billion in investment simply to achieve a state-of-good-repair. These numbers are not merely theoretical—not addressing this backlog could mean anything from incessant delays to a looming disaster for the millions of people who depend on the rail lines every day.

For these reasons, I write to reiterate my earlier request to the Committee for full funding of the PRIIA Section 212 Capital Grant request, and to further recommend that these funds be incorporated into a Northeast Corridor Safety Grant Program to help target desperately needed rail safety and basic infrastructure improvements along the Corridor. The Section 212 Capital Grant request of $555.8 million is consistent with the President’s budget request, and was born out of the recommendations made by the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission. As you know, the Northeast Corridor Commission was created by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 to help better coordinate management and investment in Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure. The Commission recently formalized its proposal under Section 212(c) of that law, which standardizes cost allocation between states and Amtrak for use of rail assets throughout the Corridor. It is time to fully fund this defined policy agreement that Congress mandated in 2008.

Of course, transformational investments in the Corridor cannot be made while Congress is bound by the strictures of the 2011 Budget Control Act and the draconian annual spending caps the law imposes on the Appropriations Committee. I look forward to working with you towards providing flexibility from those caps so that we can together robustly fund programs that are mutually important to our constituents.

I greatly appreciate your work in writing this legislation, which is critical to the investments that enable communities to build transportation infrastructure, become engines of economic development, and provide affordable housing for millions of families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Thank you for your tireless work and your consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy