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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3)

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) held a Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee hearing today focusing on the role of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in achieving a better and more robust intercity and commuter rail passenger system in the United States. At the hearing, Chairman Lipinski emphasized the importance of making significant investments in rail infrastructure and making it easier for passenger railroads and Amtrak to expand or establish new service. Witnesses at the hearing included Romayne Brown, the first African-American chairwoman of the Metra, and Marty Oberman, current vice-chair of the STB and former chairman of Metra.

“As one of the millions of Americans who frequently uses commuter and passenger rail, I understand firsthand the importance of a reliable and safe rail network in getting Americans where they need to go,” said Congressman Lipinski. “Enhancing our passenger rail networks requires making a significant federal investment in our intercity and commuter rail infrastructure. It also necessitates that we expand our domestic rail supply industry, so that our nation’s railroads are once again made in America. Lastly, we will need to establish a more balanced and efficient process to utilize existing tracks for expanded passenger rail service. The Surface Transportation Board plays a vital role in protecting the interests of travelers and commuters and this hearing gives the subcommittee an opportunity to hear how Congress can enhance the STB’s role in reauthorization.”

Chairman Lipinski and subcommittee members examined how the Surface Transportation Board’s jurisdiction could be further expanded to improve our national intercity and commuter passenger rail system. The Chairman specifically highlighted the need for Congress to give commuter railroads like Metra more leverage with other railroads when it wants to expand or add new service.

In July, Chairman Lipinski co-authored the House approved the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), a transformative bill that would invest a record $60 billion over five years in the nation’s passenger rail infrastructure. The Moving Forward Act makes commuter railroads newly eligible for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program and authorizes $7 billion over five years for the CRISI program. The Moving Forward Act also requires freight railroads to strongly consider commuter railroads’ requests for reasonable access and usage of freight rail infrastructure, a key priority of Chairman Lipinski.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is an independent federal agency and has the primary responsibility of regulating railroads, including adjudicating disputes between Amtrak and freight railroads regarding on-time performance and Amtrak’s requests to initiate new rail service on existing freight rail lines. The STB is currently operating with only 3 of the 5 board seats filled and its authorization expired on October 1, 2020.   

Witnesses for today’s hearing were:

  • Ms. Ann D. Begeman-Chairman, Surface Transportation Board
  • Mr. Martin J. Oberman-Vice Chairman, Surface Transportation Board
  • Ms. Romayne C. Brown- Chair of the Board of Directors, Metra
  • Mr. Stephen Gardner- Senior Executive Vice President, Amtrak
  • Mr. Ian Jefferies-President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of American Railroads
  • Mr. Randal O’Toole-Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
  • Mr. Paul Skoutelas-President and Chief Executive Officer, American Public Transportation Association

Chairman Lipinski’s full opening remarks can be found on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure website here.