"President Bush today signed into law a bill to provide billions of dollars to boost passenger rail safety and strengthen Amtrak, including upgrades to the Northeast Corridor.
The legislation, pushed by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, would allocate $1.6 billion for rail safety, and renew and expand the Federal Railroad Administration.
Additionally, the bill contains a provision pushed by Republicans to open up the Northeast Corridor to private competition. Specifically, the measure would allow the transportation secretary to invite bids from private companies to build new high-speed rail tracks alongside existing ones in the Northeast and other well-traveled corridors."
"The legislation provides roughly $13 billion for Amtrak and passenger-rail funding over five years, nearly double current spending levels.
The shift to rail and away from cars -- Americans have been driving less for nearly a year now -- will also affect next year's debate on a transportation-spending bill that could cost as much as $500 billion. Currently, the federal government spends more than $40 billion annually on highways, roughly $10 billion on mass transit and about $1.4 billion on Amtrak.
Going forward, debate will also focus on whether to allocate federal dollars differently. Several Democratic leaders who will play key roles in the coming transportation debate say concerns over congestion, pollution and oil consumption should lead to greater spending on passenger-rail service."
Thanks to MTC-ABAG Library