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On Wednesday, March 4, 2015, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA) by a vote of 316 – 101, majorities from both parties supported passage. This bill authorizes appropriations for Amtrak for Fiscal Years 2016-2019 (FY 2016-2019). Included in this $7.8 billion four-year authorization is approximately $1.9 billion for the Amtrak Northeast Corridor Improvement Fund account; approximately $3.9 billion for the Amtrak National Network account; $96 million for the Amtrak Office of Inspector General; and $1.2 billion for capital grants to states for new intercity passenger rail.
APTA urged the House of Representatives to pass the legislation, which was reported out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously, without amendment. Several non-controversial amendments to the bill were offered and ruled in order, all but one of which passed by a voice vote, noting large bipartisan support. The summaries of the amendments, as well as their results can be found below. One amendment to eliminate operating subsidies for Amtrak was defeated on the floor.
- Rep. McNerney (D-CA) Amendment #4 – Amendment ensures that socially and economically disadvantaged businesses request for proposals are considered for station development opportunities under Section 208 of the bill. Result – passed by voice vote.
- Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) Amendment #1 – Amendment adds veteran-owned small businesses to the participation study required under Section 305. Result – passed by voice vote.
- Rep. Mica (R-FL) Amendment #14 – Amendment requires the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission, in consultation with Amtrak and within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, to submit a report to Congress that analyzes the implementation of non-stop, high-speed express passenger rail service between Washington, DC and Boston, Massachusetts. Result – passed by voice vote.
- Rep. Brownley (D-CA) Amendment #2 – Amendment requires each state to develop a grade crossing action plan, identifying specific solutions for improving safety at crossings, including highway-rail grade crossing closures or grade separations; and focuses on crossings that have experienced recent grade crossing accidents or multiple accidents, or are at high risk for accidents. Result – passed by voice vote.
- Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO) Amendment #13 – Amendment requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to submit to Congress a report evaluating the effectiveness of the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) 2005 rule on the use of locomotive horns at rail crossings. Result – passed by voice vote.
- Rep. McClintock (R-CA) Amendment #17 – Amendment restricts operating subsidies for Amtrak. Result – failed 147 – 272. APTA opposed the McClintock amendment, which ultimately was defeated with votes from both parties.
- Rep. Lipinski (D-IL) Amendment #15 – Amendment clarifies that passengers using or transporting non-motorized transportation are to be considered in the Amtrak Office of Inspector General’s report on boarding procedures in Section 211. Result – passed by voice vote.
The House also rejected a motion to recommit the bill to committee by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) with instructions to add funding for rail security improvements and a veterans hiring initiative in the Amtrak Police Department.
The legislation will now be sent to the Senate for further consideration. The White House announced its support for passage of the bill in the House of Representatives on Monday evening.