Legislative Updates

Briefing:  “The Economic & Community Benefits of High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail”

The Caucus is sponsoring a briefing on Thursday, July 7 at 11:00 AM in the CVC Meeting Room North titled, “The Economic & Community Benefits of High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail.”  The briefing is being organized by Reconnecting America Deputy Policy Director Darnell Grisby, and we appreciate all his help and efforts.

The panel will be made up of national and regional experts in the field, including John Robert Smith, President & CEO of Reconnecting America, Steve Geil, President & CEO of Fresno Economic Development Corporation and Dan Schned, Associate Planner of America 2050.  They will discuss in depth the various economic and community benefits of high-speed and intercity passenger rail. 

We look forward to the briefing and hope you will be able to join us. 


The Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act

As you know, last week Chairmen John Mica and Bill Shuster introduced a proposal to privatize the Northeast Corridor.  A number of Co-Chairs and Vice Chairs expressed serious concern about the proposal and issued a statement, which is attached.  Also, attached is a summary of how the legislation will impact NEC stakeholders.


Status of FRA Obligating Projects Funded by ARRA

As of June 20, 2011, FRA has obligated 71 percent or $5.68 billion of projects funded by ARRA.  Approximately $1.6 billion of the remaining $2.312 billion that has not been obligated was announced in May, 2011.  As you may know, ARRA’s deadline to obligate HSIPR funds is September 30, 2012.  FRA is continuing to work expeditiously with all grantees and stakeholders to obligate the remaining projects prior to the deadline. 

FRA, states, Amtrak, and infrastructure-owning railroads have made significant progress in reaching service outcome agreements to ensure that intended project benefits are realized, while protecting the public’s investment and the railroads’ operating interests.  Service outcome agreements have been signed with four Class I railroads for major projects.  These successful agreements will serve as a template for the remaining unobligated projects and future investment.  FRA has been working with its partners in an unprecedented fashion to develop a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network in the United States and we look forward to continuing to work with them closely. 

Click here to see a real time list of High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail project funding that have been obligated.


Chairman Frelinghuysen’s Amendment to the FY 12 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill

As you know, on June 15 Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen offered in Full Committee an amendment to the FY 12 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill rescinding unobligated high-speed rail ARRA money.  More specifically, the amendment provides $1.028 billion in emergency funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to repair damage caused by recent storms and floods, and to prepare for future disaster events.  The funding is offset by a rescission of the remaining emergency high-speed rail funding that was originally approved in ARRA. 

The offset language in Chairman Frelinghuysen’s amendment read as follows, “On the date of enactment of this Act, all of the unobligated balances remaining available under the heading “Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration-Capital Assistance for High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service" in title XII of Public Law 111-5 (ARRA) are hereby rescinded.”  This would rescind all unobligated HSIPR funding as opposed to just $1.028 billion.

Ranking Member Pete Visclosky offered an amendment to strike the offset from Frelinghuysen's amendment but it was rejected, 20-26, after which Chairman Frelinghuysen's amendment was adopted by voice vote.

Click here to see the amendment debate.  Chairman Frelinghuysen’s amendment is offered at 45:50, Ranking Member Visclosky’s amendment is introduced at 50:52 and Chairman Frelinghuysen response begins at 56:10.

The bill is scheduled to come to the House floor during the week of July 5.  In anticipation of the bill’s consideration, it is important for representatives to hear from constituents expressing concern that their district stands to lose projects if it were signed into law.  The message must be loud and clear that their communities will be negatively impacted by rescinding any high-speed rail money. 

I have attached a document and spreadsheet listing both obligated and unobligated projects that have been awarded ARRA funds.  You may use both as a tool in your efforts to contact representatives and their staff to express concern about this possible rescission and any possible future rescissions.

Additionally, we would appreciate it if you could also encourage these staffers to attend the briefing on July 7 in order for them to learn firsthand what benefits their communities stand to lose should a rescission be signed into law.


Membership & Prospective Members

We currently have 54 members of the Caucus.  A list of the members and an updated list of prospective members are attached.  We will continue our efforts to recruit democratic and republican members and would appreciate any assistance you may be able to offer in expanding our membership.


Website & Facebook Page

We have begun constructing the website and expect it to be live within the next month.  As for Facebook, you may access the Caucus’ page by clicking here.  We encourage you to “Like” the page and share it with colleagues.