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U.S. Senate panel to unveil $78 billion surface transportation bill -sources

Economy36 minutes ago (Jun 10, 2021 02:37PM ET)

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for an event marking Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary, at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 30, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday will unveil a bipartisan surface transportation bill that would authorize $78 billion over five years, including $25 billion for passenger rail, sources briefed on the matter said.

The bill includes more than $19 billion in grants for U.S passenger railroad Amtrak over five years, which is a dramatic increase over the average $2 billion in government funding the railroad received annually before COVID-19.

The proposal, negotiated by committee chairwoman Senator Maria Cantwell and the top Republican on the panel Senator Roger Wicker, would also invest $28 billion in multimodal and freight networks, and $500 million dollars over five years to improve first responder planning and training for hazardous material incidents.

The Amtrak funding provides “funding to address the Northeast Corridor project backlog, and encourages expansion of passenger rail corridors with state support,” according to a fact sheet seen by Reuters.

“With the economy rebounding, it’s imperative that our long delayed transportation needs are addressed,” Cantwell said. “Whether it’s moving people safely, delivering freight on time, or addressing environmental needs, this legislation is a down payment to thrive and compete in the innovation economy.”

Last month, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a companion bipartisan bill to spend $303.5 billion on roads, highways and other surface projects over five years, a 34% increase over the last highway reauthorization bill approved in 2015.

The Commerce bill directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue new safety standards to require future vehicles to be equipped with advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology, but give automakers at least two years before they would need to comply.

NHTSA estimates about 10,000 people are killed annually in alcohol related crashes.

U.S. Senate panel to unveil $78 billion surface transportation bill -sources

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