Biden Signs into Law the Bipartisan “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act”
America needs a makeover, and the House agreed by supporting the legislation to secure a $1.2 trillion (about $3,700 per person in the US) bill. The bill, titled the Infrastructure and Jobs Act or IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), is the most significant investment in the nation’s infrastructure in a century. According to civil engineers, we need money for ongoing repairs on roads, bridges, rails, water and power lines, and ports.
The NARVRE (National Association of Retired & Veteran Railway Employees) lobbyists and our fellow members worked hard to support this vital legislation and should be proud of the amount secured to enhance the railway. The IIJA provides a generous portion of funding for rail repairs, especially for Amtrak. The bill will double Amtrak’s annual authorization and provide the following historic funding in supplemental appropriations:
$6B for Northeast Corridor Grants
$16B for National Network
$36B for Fed-State Partnership to Intercity Passenger rail with 24 B set aside for the Northeast Corridor
$5B for CRISI grants
$3B for Railroad Crossing Elimination Program
$50 for Restoration and Enhancement
According to Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn, the funding is more funding than Amtrak has received in all other funding combined. A few reforms will be required to strengthen the carrier and thus improve the quality of service for future riders. The enhancements also help to ensure job stability for current Amtrak employees. Here is a list of those reforms.
Amtrak is required to staff enough station agent positions depending on certain levels of traffic
Alter’s Amtrak’s current mission statement to include the primary goal of providing quality service, eliminates any negative language associated with food or beverage revenues that might have prohibited growth which could result in either reducing or removing onboard service.
Creates a new food and beverage group that includes labor participation. It will also no longer allow contracting out of work employees who can perform that work but are currently furloughed.
Section 22210 supports Amtrak again by making it difficult for Congress to eliminate long-distance routes.
Lastly, works to ensure Amtrak drivers and passengers are safer by instilling Critical incident stress plans.
There have also been provisions to ensure rail safety guidelines are in place. The Precision Scheduled Railroading business model now extends train lengths up to 3 miles. The IIJA will require a National Academics study on the safety of trains longer than 7,500 ft. since they present unique training and safety challenges. The IIJA will also address accident investigations by requiring DOT to create a better process involving rail labor representatives and stakeholders in all future studies. A quarterly report on failures and functions of the Positive Train Control technology by including any issues with malfunction and enforcement where accidents were prevented will also be required. Overall, we at NARVRE consider the IIJA a significant win for railroaders. The focus on safety and investments will deliver actual returns in the years to come.
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