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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

AAR offers rail-policy ideas for Trump's infrastructure plan

Ed Hamberger
Photo – Association of American Railroads

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump said last night that he will send lawmakers a bill calling for a $1 trillion investment in the nation's infrastructure.

Although the president provided few details, he said the nation's "crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land."

The package will be financed through public and private capital, the president added.

Earlier in the day, Association of American Railroads (AAR) President Ed Hamberger outlined a five-point policy position on infrastructure investment in an open letter to Trump.

The privately funded U.S. freight railroads must be a central part of infrastructure talks, Hamberger noted.

AAR's five policy recommendations are:
Halt freight-rail re-regulation.
"Efforts by unelected officials, namely the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, to undo the wildly successful partial deregulation structure of freight railroads is antithetical to improving U.S. infrastructure," Hamberger wrote. "Misguided policy changes that would reduce freight-rail efficiencies and investments, and in turn push freight to roads, only increases funding needs for those public systems."
Modal equity.
"Since 2008, policymakers have transferred $143 billion in general funds to the Highway Trust Fund, 'free' taxpayer money for federal-aid highway program beneficiaries. Increasing commercial users' contribution is imperative," Hamberger's letter stated. "The tradition in which users of highway infrastructure pay for that infrastructure should not be broken, and the Trump administration should seriously consider solutions such as a weight distance fee to establish a truly equitable system."
Truck size and weight limits.
"Instituted due to the uncompensated damage heavy trucks cause to U.S. highways, limits should persist to prevent further damage and taxpayer subsidization of truck-induced road and bridge deterioration," stated the letter.
Public-private partnerships.
"Policymakers should implement more public-private partnerships for freight railroad infrastructure improvement projects where the project provides significant public benefits or meets public needs," wrote Hamberger.
Adequate support for Amtrak and commuter rail.
"Government should provide adequate financial support levels for Amtrak and commuter railroads, including installation of positive train control technology," the letter concluded.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/1/2017