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Early Saturday morning the Senate passed H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015 by voice vote. This legislation extends the MAP-21 authorization from May 31 through July 31. The bill has now passed both chambers of Congress and is expected to be signed by the President this week.
Shortly after the bill passed the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated, "With the two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund, Congress prevented many critical road, bridge, and transit projects from coming to a grinding halt. But it's time we end this costly uncertainty with the Highway Trust Fund. The only solution to fixing this problem is to enact a consensus-based, bipartisan, six-year surface transportation bill that will provide states and local communities the funding and the certainty they need to plan and construct multi-year projects to modernize our infrastructure. Our committee continues to make progress on a consensus, six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, with a goal to mark up the legislation on June 24."
Upon introduction of the bill on May 15, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the following statement, “While highway and transit program spending authority expires at the end of the month, the Highway Trust Fund has sufficient resources to fund its obligations through the end of July. It was our preference to move an extension through the end of the year, but we will need more time to reach a bipartisan agreement on offsets. This legislation will allow transportation spending to continue through July, while we work towards a next step to close the Trust Fund’s shortfall. Doing so will require our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to be constructive in working towards a solution. Only then will we be able to produce a plan that gives states the certainty they need to build the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure our communities and economy need to thrive.”
Although President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, the White House has not indicated yet when that signing will occur.
Federal Railroad Administration Orders Train Speed Control for the Northeast Corridor
In the wake of the recent Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued an Emergency Order requiring Amtrak to implement speed control measures at select sections of its Northeast Corridor including the Frankford Junction curve where the incident took place. The order mandates that Amtrak take immediate actions to enforce the passenger train speed limit of 50 mph for northbound trains at the derailment site; Amtrak implemented these enforcement protocols prior to the re-opening of service on the corridor. In addition, Amtrak must survey the corridor and identify each curve where a reduction of more than 20 mph from the authorized approach speed is necessary. After identifying the curve locations, Amtrak must develop and comply with an FRA-approved action plan to modify its existing Automatic Train Control (ATC) System or take alternative operational actions to enforce speed limits at these sites. Amtrak must also post additional signs throughout the corridor alerting operators of the maximum authorized train speeds. Lastly, the modifications made by Amtrak to its ATC System or signal system will also enforce relevant speed restrictions for other passenger trains operating in the Northeast Corridor.
“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail corridor in the country and the steps we have ordered Amtrak to take will immediately improve safety on this busy corridor,” said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “But in the days and weeks to come, we will also do more; while FRA will continue to push Amtrak and other commuter lines to achieve full implementation of Positive Train Control, we will also work with them in the short term to immediately address potential over-speed issues.”