Larsen Backs Bill to Expand Amtrak, Invest in Affordable, Fuel-Efficient Transit

Jun 12, 2008

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) joined a majority in the House today to pass legislation to invest in Amtrak and help provide affordable and accessible transportation for Americans struggling with high fuel costs. By a veto-proof majority of 311 to 104, the House passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (H.R. 6003), a bipartisan bill to expand Amtrak and construct high-speed rail on high-density corridors across the nation.  Amtrak’s last authorization expired in 2002.

“With gas prices in Northwest Washington at record highs and airlines struggling to pay for fuel, the need for affordable, accessible passenger rail service has never been greater,” said Larsen, a cosponsor of the bill and member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee which wrote the legislation. “This legislation will strengthen our national investment in rail service and help keep our economy moving.”

As gas prices continue to skyrocket – topping an average $4 per gallon for the first time in history last week -- demand for cost-efficient public transportation systems, including passenger rail, is on the rise. According to the Bellingham Herald, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gas hit $4.33 in the Bellingham area on Tuesday.  In Everett, the average price per gallon topped $4.20. 

Nearly 677,000 passengers rode the Amtrak Cascades during 2007, a 7.4 increase from 2006, according to Lloyd Flem of All Aboard Washington. During the first quarter of 2008 alone, ridership increased by 13 percent compared to the same period last year.

“Demand for train service in our region is coming on fast and strong,” said Flem. “This legislation will be extraordinarily helpful in providing federal resources to improve tracks and infrastructure and purchase new trains.”

Among other provisions, the bill provides $4.2 billion to Amtrak for competitive capital grants for capital costs and equipment, $2.5 billion in grants to states to help pay for the capital costs of new or improved inter-city passenger rail service and $1.75 billion for states and Amtrak to construct high-speed rail corridors.