One of the most innovative passenger rail bills seen in a long time was introduced this week in the U.S. Senate. It is a companion to the already passed U.S. House of Representatives bill that would reauthorize the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act of 2008.
While the House bill does little damage to passenger rail (except for keeping it on a survival-only budget), the Senate bill offers some innovative elements and recognizes the need for service expansion. Specifically, the bipartisan Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act of 2015 (Senate bill #1626), released this week by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, could help Ohio in a couple of notable ways:
- The bill would give local and regional governments a stronger voice in rail planning and development decisions. This is important in a state like Ohio that has an anti-rail state government but pro-rail local and regional governments;
- The bill includes a provision called Section 301 that, for the first time in the 21st century, provides federal operating funding for passenger rail service to expand. Among the criteria for expansion are restoring service over former Amtrak routes and providing daily or daytime service where such service does not currently exist. All of these conditions exist in abundance in Ohio.
All Aboard Ohio strongly encourages you to contact your two US Senators (Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman) in Ohio to let them know your personal feelings on this bill. Please reference the Senate bill number (S.1626 ) in your communications with Ohio’s senators. Since S.1626 is markedly different from its House counterpart, there would have to be a conference committee to resolve differences. If you support more and better passenger train services in Ohio, kindly urge your U.S. Representative to replace the House version with the Senate version.