House members push for 'robust' rail funding

House members push for 'robust' rail funding
© WTVD-11

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers from Illinois is calling for Congress to include a "robust" amount of funding for passenger rail in a funding bill for the Department of Transportation. 

Lawmakers are considering a measure that contains funding for the 2016 fiscal year for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. 

A group of 11 Democrats and one Republican Illinois lawmaker said the measure should "fully fund" rail programs that included in the transportation and housing measure, which is known in Washington as THUD. 

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"Given the impact of passenger rail and transit to Illinois, we the undersigned members of the Illinois Congressional delegation write to request your support for vitally important transit and passenger rail investments by fully funding mass transit, Amtrak and Intercity Rail Capital Assistance Programs in the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to House Transportation and Housing and Urban Development subcommittee chairman Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). 

"National passenger rail and transit systems are part of our national transportation network that are critical for competing in the 21st century economy, generating jobs and fostering urban and rural community growth," the lawmakers continued. "The importance of passenger rail and transit to the state of Illinois and the region generally cannot be overstated." 

The push for more rail funding comes weeks after lawmakers in the Republican-led House passed a passenger rail bill that authorized $7.8 billion for Amtrak.

Several of the Illinois lawmakers have also filed a bill to spend $1 billion over the next five years on boosting the safety of U.S. commuter railways after a recent string of accidents. 

The lawmakers who signed the letter Monday said it was important to have as much rail funding as possible. 

"Without robust federal funding of transit and passenger rail in the FY 2016 THUD appropriations bill, Illinois transportation systems will be subject to deteriorating roadbeds and equipment, bad on-time performance, increased traffic congestion, loss of ridership and American jobs," the lawmakers wrote. 

"For all of these reasons, we urge your support in fully funding for mass transit, Amtrak and Intercity Rail Capital Assistance Programs in the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016," the letter continued. "We look forward to continuing to work with you to expand and improve access to public transit and passenger rail not only in Illinois but in communities throughout the nation." 

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