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As Congress finalizes this year’s transportation spending bill, the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) and more than 100 organizations, public officials, municipalities, and small businesses from around the country have come together to support a full $4 billion investment in high speed passenger rail.
Last month, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S.PIRG), Transportation for America, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, and Virginians for High Speed Rail set up fourbillion.com to show Congress the overwhelming nationwide demand that exists for high speed rail investment. Along with the more than 100 organizations and public officials, more than 2500 individuals have showed their support.
“The public is broadly supportive of a faster, stronger rail system in our state and in this country,” said Jesse Victor, Transportation Associate for Arizona PIRG, “across borders, regions, and political affiliations, they are calling on Congress to make this investment.”
The U.S. House version of the FY10 transportation appropriations bill, which passed with bipartisan support, included a $4 billion allocation for high speed passenger rail. The majority of the members in the House voted on more than one occasion to deny attempts to lessen the high speed rail funding. The Senate then cut the appropriation down by nearly 75 percent, to $1.2 billion, in their bill, which passed in late September. The two bills will now move to a conference committee, which will decide the final amount of the funding by the end of the month.
Americans are turning to passenger rail in record numbers. Rail travel ridership increased each of the last six years, while vehicle miles traveled for cars and trucks has fallen over the last two years for the first time since the oil crisis of the 1970s.
State and local leaders are searching for the means to meet this demand. According to the US Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration has received close to 300 pre-applications so far from 40 states totaling more than $100 billion in requests for high speed intercity passenger rail grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“A national network of fast, frequent and dependable trains is a critical tool for reinventing the nation's economy. The states have recognized the need to expand our railroad system,” said Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, “It is urgent that Congress follow through with the needed funding."
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