Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell,
On behalf of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), congratulations on passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which we believe will be transformational for passenger rail in California and across the county.
As the third busiest intercity passenger rail corridor in the nation, the Capitol Corridor service is a critical transportation system in the Northern California Megaregion, carrying nearly 1.8 million passengers in fiscal year 2019. The CCJPA was created by the State of California in the late 1990s to market and maintain oversight of the state-supported rail service between Auburn/Sacramento, Oakland, and San Jose. For thirty years since its inception, the service has benefitted immensely from steady investment, almost entirely funded by the State of California.
With increased federal support for passenger rail as proposed in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we will be able to leverage available state funding and accelerate our plans for expansion defined under the umbrella of the California Statewide Rail Plan and in the adopted CCJPA Vision Plan. Improvements to our intercity passenger rail system will improve mobility for California residents, support the State’s economy and serve as a critical strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We would like to highlight some elements of the legislation that will have a significant impact on passenger rail:
Recognition of the role of states and joint powers authority in passenger rail. As recognized in this legislation, passenger rail in the country is about more than just Amtrak. The fleet used to operate the CCJPA service is owned by the State of California, operations are conducted by Amtrak, the rail infrastructure is owned by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) and Caltrain, and the train stations are owned by communities along the corridor. CCJPA brings these partners together to deliver a high-quality intercity passenger rail service. As well, the California intercity rail JPAs lead the effort to deliver capital improvements in partnership with the Class I freight railroads. The legislation, as proposed, provides discretionary programs for which CCJPA is eligible, including the Federal-State Partnership Program, redefined to expand eligibility to services like our own, and an expanded CRISI program. CCJPA is ready and able to deliver on projects to further enhance and expand our service.
Improved transparency and reform of the costing system for state-supported service. The current system that allocates the cost of Amtrak’s rail operating services to states does not provide a sufficient level of transparency, nor does it always reflect services provided. We are encouraged by the language in the proposed legislation that sets an expectation for improvements to this system under the oversight of the State Amtrak Intercity Passenger Rail Committee (SAIPRC).
Investments in safety. CCJPA and other rail services in the State of California struggle with far too many fatalities along the railroad right-of-way. In this legislation, Congress recognizes this by creating a new grade separation program and providing significant investment in existing programs to reduce right-of-way pedestrian fatalities. While CCJPA has been working in close partnership with UPRR to address this vexing issue, an expanded Federal partnership will allow us to expand our efforts to improve safety. Even a single fatality is one too many.
As the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act moves to the House, we will engage with our elected representatives to ensure a full understanding of the positive benefits this bill will bring to intercity rail. We very much look forward to being a partner with Congress and the Federal government to deliver this truly transformational investment.