WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Marie Newman (IL-03), a member on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, announced that her office has successfully secured the inclusion of her Rail Center for Excellence amendment in the INVEST in America Act, this year’s House surface transportation reauthorization bill. Under the amendment, the U.S. Department of Transportation would establish a Rail Research and Development Center of Excellence that would conduct critical research and development to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of passenger and freight rail transportation. Congresswoman Newman’s Rail Center for Excellence legislative language was added today as part of the Manager’s Amendment in the INVEST in America Act, which was introduced by House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and is currently being considered by the committee during markup this week.
“By ensuring that we’re studying and researching the safety and efficiency of our rail systems across the country, we can create a national standard of excellence that would benefit all riders and transit workers,” said Congresswoman Newman. “Rail transportation is a major part of the economy not only in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District but across many of our nation’s communities, which is why this legislation will better help us study those impacts so we can continue to grow this critical industry. I am beyond thrilled to see this amendment included in the INVEST in America Act, and I look forward to passing this monumental legislation so that we can modernize our roads, bridges, transit, rail and so much more.”
While the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) current research and development efforts rely on vendors and manufacturers for short-term projects, this amendment would establish funding for a long-term approach. Establishing a Rail Center for Excellence would help FRA and the rail industry advance breakthroughs in passenger and rail worker safety, develop sustainable solutions to address the climate crisis, and build a new generation of rail transportation and engineering professionals.
“The INVEST in America Act is about transforming our infrastructure for the modern era, and a big part of realizing that goal is investing in more research and development,” Chair DeFazio said. “I commend Representative Newman for bringing forth this important provision to help America’s national rail network better compete in the 21st century economy.”
By harnessing the power of the basic and applied research that institutions like the University of Illinois System can operate, this amendment would further help the nation plan for growth in the industry and compete globally. Furthermore, establishing a Rail Center for Excellence at a university would better inform policy discussions regarding the social and economic impacts of all rail, including freight, passage and transit.
“I applaud Congresswoman Newman for her leadership in championing a center of excellence focused on rail research and education,” said Tim Killeen, president of the University of Illinois System. “Illinois is at the center of the nation’s rail network and, as Congress considers investments in infrastructure, the University of Illinois System stands ready to share its considerable expertise in rail and transit issues to further this effort.”
Today’s inclusion of the Rail Center for Excellence amendment follows the inclusion of Congresswoman Newman’s bipartisan All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP) Act of 2021 in the INVEST in America Act. Introduced last month, the ASAP Act of 2021 would establish a federal grant program to support transit and commuter rail systems to upgrade stations and facilities to meet or exceed accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).