Appropriations Vice Chair Leahy Announces Committee Approval Of Key Transportation Funding

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday preserves key infrastructure resources for communities across Vermont and the nation.  The bill includes $255 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grants, $300 million for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair, and $1 billion for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grants.

Vermont has benefited from several TIGER grants, including awards for upgrades to the Western Corridor that are paving the way for the extension of Amtrak’s Ethan Allen passenger rail service from Rutland to Burlington.  Other awards have included investments in the Burlington Waterfront and an award to New Hampshire to replace the I-89 bridge across the Connecticut River.  In response to a number of rail safety incidents across the country, including the 2015 derailment of Amtrak’s Vermonter, Leahy built on the recently enacted 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act by including significant additional funding for rail programs.  This includes a dedicated $50 million within Amtrak’s budget to spend on four rail lines that have waivers from the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Positive Train Control requirement.  Two of the four lines eligible for funding include Amtrak’s Vermonter and Ethan Allen service.  Rail lines are eligible for waivers from the FRA if train traffic operates below certain thresholds.  Beyond these investments, the bill also includes a $50 million increase for the Partnership for State of Good Repair, which could be used for future projects to improve Vermont’s rail bridge infrastructure and ultimately to improve access to freight rail for Vermont businesses.

Leahy was a leading negotiator in the bipartisan budget deal reached by Congress earlier in the year that allowed for and made possible new investments here at home, including in infrastructure.  As Vice Chairman of the Committee, Leahy played a leading role in not only preserving but bolstering these programs, which have been repeated targets of the Trump administration.  The President’s proposed budget proposed eliminating funding for the bipartisan and highly successful TIGER grant program, CRISI Grants and the Partnership for State of Good Repair program.  With the action taken Thursday, the Appropriations Committee has rejected those deep infrastructure cuts.  

Leahy said:  “I am proud of the bipartisan spirit that we harnessed in protecting these vital transportation investments from the slashing cuts proposed in the President’s budget.  Transportation infrastructure is vital to our economy and our communities, and I will fight to make it the priority it needs to be as we write these spending bills.  These funds will repair roads and bridges, expand public transportation and bring Vermont communities together.”

The funding bill now must be considered and passed by the full Senate and the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President.

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