Senate passes MAP-21
March 17, 2012
The U.S. Senate passed its transportation bill on Wednesday, March 14 with a 74-22 vote. It was a bipartisan effort of the senate to write and pass the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), a two-year, $109 billion investment in transit, rail, and improving the nation's infrastructure. It's commendable that the Senate was able to work through this complicated bill, and garner 74 votes, in such a contentious time in Washington. Progress!
The Senate bill contains several policy changes related to passenger rail. You can read about those provisions below.
Politico has a good analysis of Speaker Boehner's difficult choices regarding the bill at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74038.html.
Here is a summary of the passenger rail provisions:
- The bill creates a Federal-regional-state rail planning framework in which U.S. DOT is required to develop a long-range national rail plan, as well as regional rail plans that address how the national rail plan will be implemented. States are not required to prepare rail plans, but must do so – in a manner consistent with the national and appropriate regional plans – in order to receive Federal high speed/intercity passenger rail grants. (§ 36101)
- U.S. DOT is required to issue studies, reports or guidance on a range of topics, including: means of measuring on-time performance (§ 36102); improving access to data, modeling capabilities, and cost benefit analysis for rail development (§ 36103); ways to enhance service in shared-use corridors (§ 36104); liability requirements and arrangements (§ 36108); railroad workforce development (§ 36110); veterans employment (§ 36111); PTC implementation (§ 36301); and spectrum availability for PTC (§ 36303).
- The Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee is directed to continue developing and updating its specifications as needed, and is also required to establish an equipment pooling entity to lease or acquire equipment in State-supported services (§ 36105).
- The bill makes several modifications to the FRA’s high speed/intercity passenger rail grant program (§ 36107), including:
- Allowing Amtrak to directly apply for and receive grants for any type of service (currently, Amtrak can only apply directly for high-speed projects);
- Directing U.S. DOT to achieve a balance between system development and maintenance/improvement of the current system;
- Lowering the Federal match to 50% for projects on a corridor or service not included on the national rail plan;
- Allowing Amtrak to match grants with ticket or other revenue sources (excluding other Federal funds); and
- Creating a grant program – at 100% Federal cost – for Amtrak and the states to improve or preserve long-distance service.
- A transition assistance program is created under which States could temporarily access 100% Federal grants to help defray the costs of implementing PRIIA Section 209. (§ 36201)
- There are a number of provisions focused on the Northeast Corridor, including:
- A requirement that FRA to complete a long-range Service Development Plan by 2015(§ 36202);
- A requirement that the NEC Commission develop a comprehensive long-range strategy for NEC utilization by all users (§ 36202);
- An extension of the deadline – to October 2013 – for the NEC Commission to develop a standardized formula for NEC access cost allocation (§ 36202);
- A requirement that Amtrak complete its integrated NEC vision work and business/financing plan within 180 days (§36203);
- A requirement that U.S. DOT to complete a plan and schedule for the NEC programmatic environmental review that would have the necessary work done within 3 years (§ 36204); and
- An authorization for U.S. DOT to delegate authority and responsibility for environmental reviews to Amtrak (§ 36205)
- Amtrak is prohibited from paying incentive payments to host railroads for a service that averages less than 80% on-time performance for two consecutive calendar quarters and where the failure to meet 80% is the sole responsibility of the host railroad. (§36208)
- Allows U.S. DOT to extend the PTC deadline in 1-year increments – up until 2019 – for freight or passenger rail carriers if the Secretary determines that implementation is infeasible due to circumstances beyond their control. (Sec. 36301)
- Creates new licensing and insurance requirements for passenger rail carriers where all carriers would be required to carry insurance of at least $200 million (or whatever amount specified by law if the current $200 million liability cap per accident or incident is amended). (§36601)