Passenger Rail Investment

Highspeed Rail, Intercity, Buy America

The United States has underinvested in intercity passenger service since the 1950s. A once vibrant intercity passenger rail supply community virtually disappeared in the 1970s. Uneven investment in Amtrak over the last 40 years has not allowed for a strong intercity passenger supply industry to reemerge. However, what has survived has been supported by Buy America regulations requiring that a portion of federally funded purchases have 50 percent domestic content. Recognition by the federal government and states that passenger rail is a viable transportation alternative has led to increased funding providing some optimism that the passenger supply sector is poised for growth. The Administration’s strong support of high speed rail has increased that optimism.

One reason highways and transit have continued to prosper is that these modes enjoy a dedicated source of funding – missing in high speed and intercity passenger rail. RSI continues to work with Congress and the Administration on ways to develop a dedicated, multi-year passenger rail funding proposal that will work.

  • High Speed Rail: The $8 billion committed to high speed rail through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and that Congress continued to build upon by making available an additional $2.1 billion through annual appropriations for Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, using the framework initially established by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), brought the total program funding to $10.1 billion. Also of interest is information on OneRail, a coalition dedicated to advancing freight and passenger railroading nationwide.
  • Buy America: We have been strong supporters of Buy America regulations and believe they have promoted the development of a passenger rail car building industry in this country, but separate programs for high speed, intercity passenger rail and transit are confusing. We believe Buy America could be improved by implementing the following recommendations:
    • Clarification of Buy America standards by streamlining the particular differences among provisions specific to Buy American, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
    • Improve transparency and accountability of domestic content requirements and introduce incentives to increase domestic content.
    • DOT’s National Rail Plan should support development of a renewed U.S. passenger rail equipment manufacturing industry through a vision of sustained equipment purchases and equipment lifecycle policies that avoid “boom or bust” procurement cycles.
    • View Buy America White Paper [PDF]
  • Intercity: RSI is following the development of Intercity rail projects.