Thursday, May 13, 2010

OneRail calls for passenger, freight balance

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As federal investment in rail ramps up, and as the SAFETEA-LU omnibus transportation funding bill comes up for renewal, the OneRail Coalition, a diverse collection of interests representing freight and passenger rail, has called on the federal government “to ensure passenger and freight rail are included in assessments for additional system capacity along with highway and aviation options.”

anne-canby.jpgOneRail filed comments with the Federal Railroad Administration last week on the agency’s National Rail Plan, currently in development, outlining the following objectives:

“Establish national framework for transportation investment in the context of an overall multimodal transportation network, as well as the need to adopt specific goals and performance outcomes.

“Continue dedicated funding for commuter rail, establish new dedicated funding sources for high speed and intercity passenger rail, and treat intercity and regional passenger and freight rail infrastructure projects as eligible expenditures to the degree that new revenues outside existing Highway Trust Fund user payments are utilized to fund the federal surface transportation program. The Plan should support policies that provide matching funds and incentives for rail expansion.

“Maintain a strong focus on safety and security, relying on common sense and performance-based regulations, including a flexible approach to new rail safety technologies.

“Recognize the complexities of passenger and freight rail partnerships, and recognize that delivering successful new HSIPR corridor services will require significant capital investment, as well as a new level of analysis and consistent communication among and between freight railroads, passenger operators, public officials at all levels of government, and other stakeholders.

“Support development of a renewed U.S. passenger rail equipment manufacturing industry through a vision for sustained equipment purchases and equipment life-cycle policies that avoid ‘boom or bust’ procurement cycles.

“Boost rail workforce development and planning leadership to support the growth of freight, regional, intercity passenger and high-speed rail corridors, and foster the rail workforce of tomorrow.

“Include in the National Rail Plan five-, 10- and 20-year milestones that measure metrics such as the percent of population with access to intercity passenger rail service, growth in market share for freight and passenger rail, and capture of identified public benefits.

“It is time to rebalance transportation policy in the U.S. to promote rail equally with highways and other transportation investments,” said Anne Canby (pictured), president of the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and one of the founders of OneRail. “The development of a National Rail Plan lays out a comprehensive long-term view for rail transportation in America that gives us an historic opportunity to align the future of our transportation system with critical national priorities. We urge the Administration to integrate rail passenger and freight policies in ways that enable a fair comparison against investments in other modes, including consideration of long-term societal impacts such as continued dependence on foreign oil, reduced carbon emissions, congestion mitigation, and increased safety.”

OneRail members include the American Public Transportation Association, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, Amtrak, Association of American Railroads, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, National Association of Railroad Passengers, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, Railway Supply Institute, States for Passenger Rail Coalition, Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, Transportation Communications International Union/IAM, United Transportation Union, and Alstom. More information is available at www.onerail.org.

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