Carper co-sponsors passenger rail financing bill

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D- Del.) recently announced his intention to co-sponsor the Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Act (RIFIA), which seeks to provide new capital investment resources for passenger rail projects throughout the United States.

RIFIA modifies and improves the current Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program (RRIF), which is a self-replenishing loan fund for railroad owners who need low-interest direct loans as well as loan guarantees. The funds are to be used to support and develop the infrastructure of the nation’s railroads.

The bill was previously introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and then co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R- Ill). The passenger rail projects badly need new investment resources for projects.

“As a near-daily rider of Amtrak, a former Amtrak board member and a long-time supporter of passenger rail in America, I am confident that the Railroad Infrastructure Financing Improvement Act, or RIFIA, is the right legislation at the right time for passenger rail in this country,” Carper said. “Americans are choosing passenger rail at record levels, yet our investment in rail has been steadily shrinking. I want to thank Sen. Booker for inviting me to join him in his push to change that."

The legislation would offer rail operators improved access to low-cost capital for investment in passenger rail projects nationwide. 

“These are badly needed projects that will help to achieve a state-of-good-repair, improve safety and on-time-performance, enhance service quality, and further grow and expand Americans’ access to rail travel options," Carper said.

“Congress must find a dedicated source of federal funding for passenger rail – a financing program is not a replacement,” Carper said. “But with $35 billion in total lending authority, RRIF presents a tremendous opportunity to provide badly needed investment that will advance major passenger rail capital projects, regardless of whether or not Congress is able to agree on a dedicated funding stream.”