Rep. Costello and House Colleagues Continue to Advocate for Northeast Corridor Funding
Washington, D.C. – Reps. Ryan Costello (PA-06), Patrick Meehan (PA-07), Lou Barletta (PA-11) and Pete King (NY-02) recently sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee in support of funding for a grant program for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), as government funding negotiations continue between House and Senate leadership. The NEC, which includes rail from Massachusetts, through Pennsylvania, and down to Washington, D.C., transports a workforce that contributes nearly $50 billion to the country’s economy each year. According to the Northeast Corridor Commission, seven million jobs are within several miles of an NEC station and there are 800,000 daily riders.
The letter urges the Appropriations Committee to allocate $500 million in funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program, which funds replacement projects and upgrades along the NEC. At the request of Reps. Costello and Meehan in April 2017, the House appropriated $500 million towards the grant program in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package that passed the House in September. However, pending appropriations legislation in the U.S. Senate includes only $26 million for the program. The Congressmen, who each represent constituents who utilize the NEC, are advocating for an appropriation of $500 million to be included in any final spending package that is expected to be considered by Congress in the coming weeks.
“Pennsylvanians who use the Northeast Corridor for their daily commutes and for recreation travel with their families need to be able to trust the safety and reliability of the rail networks on which they travel. Years of underinvestment have led to a significant state-of-good-repair backlog along the NEC. Any final appropriations bill considered in the coming weeks should prioritize investment in our aging rail networks and signal a larger commitment to bringing our nation’s infrastructure into the 21st Century,” said Rep. Costello.
“Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is a crucial transportation artery that runs through the heart of our region, and every day thousands of Pennsylvanians utilize Amtrak for commuting, business and personal travel to cities up and down the East Coast. Failing to adequately invest in the Northeast Corridor line doesn’t just mean delays for travelers – it can lead to deadly accidents like the derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in 2015. I’m hopeful our colleagues will share our understanding of the importance of the Northeast Corridor to our region and the nation and that future funding bills prioritize investments that keep the line safe and reliable,” said Rep. Meehan.
“The Northeast Corridor is a key artery for Pennsylvania’s way of life. Underinvestment greatly affects the daily lives of my constituents and rail backlogs have contributed to a deteriorating safety situation. Our nation must invest in our railways, roads, and bridges. Economic growth in the 21st century depends on investments ahead of time, and that time is running out,” said Rep. Barletta.
“The Northeast Corridor is a vital and irreplaceable conduit for our nation’s economy. Ensuring its maintenance, safety and reliability is a national concern and responsibility,” said Rep. King.
“As a founding member of the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor which represents business, higher education and community leaders across the Northeast Corridor, we applaud Reps. Costello, Meehan, Barletta, and King for their vision and consistent support for this critical mobility asset," said Robert C. Wonderling, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. "$100 million a day in GDP is lost if the corridor shuts down - so continued lack of investment in the Corridor means there's zero margin for disruption. Greater Philadelphia's and the Nation's productivity relies on the corridor and it is time for Congress to take a leadership role and invest in the NEC so that its economic vibrancy and impact can be maintained.”
"Three of SEPTA’s highest-ridership Regional Rail routes operate on the Northeast Corridor and Harrisburg Branch. NEC infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement investments in our region – made possible by the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair program – will improve service for SEPTA’s 35 million annual Regional Rail customers. It is essential that all formula and discretionary grant programs are funded at FAST Act levels, and we are grateful to Reps. Costello and Meehan for their efforts to secure investment in the region’s rail infrastructure,” said Jeffrey D. Knueppel, General Manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)
Click here or read below for the text of the letter:
Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen, Ranking Member Lowey, Chairman Diaz-Balart, and Ranking Member Price:
On behalf of commuters and community stakeholders who rely on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), we respectfully request that any final Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations legislation include robust funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair, a federally authorized grant program dedicated to repairing and replacing existing rail assets, including portions of the NEC in a state of disrepair.
As you know, the House appropriated $500 million in H.R. 3353, the FY 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program. This provision was included in H.R. 3354, a larger FY 2018 appropriations package that passed the House on September 14, 2017, by a vote of 211-198. This $500 million in funding could be leveraged, via state matching requirements, into another $500 million, bringing the potential total investment up to $1 billion. Unfortunately, pending appropriations legislation in the U.S. Senate includes only $26 million for this important program.
Authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program was designed to fund capital repair and replacement projects on publically-owned or Amtrak-owned infrastructure to bring passenger rail facilities, equipment, and infrastructure into a state of good repair. Given its impact on the regional and national economy, repairing the NEC through this grant program must be a top priority.
The longer the necessary repairs go unaddressed, the higher the costs of maintenance, the lower the reliability, and the greater the long-term risks to the NEC. According to the Northeast Corridor Commission, “The loss of the NEC for a single day could cost the country $100 million in added congestion, productivity losses, and other transportation impacts.” At the same time, Amtrak and commuter railroads operating on the NEC transport a workforce that contributes nearly $50 billion annually to the American economy.
The disparity between what the NEC provides to the nation and what it receives in investment is staggering. Years of under-investment have taken a toll on the NEC’s existing rail infrastructure. In the past year alone, we have seen multiple incidents adversely impact the NEC and its nearly 800,000 daily rail passengers. To provide another example of the importance of this infrastructure, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast seaboard and caused $4.75 billion in infrastructure damage to commuter and passenger rail networks along the NEC. Nearly 11 million commuters were left without service, and Amtrak suspended service ending and originating in East Coast stations, severely impacting mobility along the corridor. Recent public incidents on the corridor, and the 5-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, are important reminders of the need to invest in the corridor now rather than kick the can down the road.
Investing in the repair and replacement of existing NEC infrastructure through the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program should be a top priority. Robust support and funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program is a much-needed investment in the health and public safety of our communities and families.
We applaud your attention to this request and thank you for your leadership on this critical challenge.