2016 Omnibus Amtrak funding bill

Published: December 22, 2015

Congress must do better for passenger rail and roadway safety

By John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division

While we look favorably on efforts made by members of congress to implement stronger and more wide-spread transportation policy upgrades – including increased funding for mass transit and highway safety programs, we are still concerned that passenger rail funding continues to fall short, and also, that safety transportation mandates continue to be swept aside.

The fact that funding allocations in FY16 Omnibus for Amtrak falls well below authorized levels for passenger rail, brings concern for the short and long-term effects on the viability, efficiency and safety of Amtrak passenger services.

Concerning roadway transit, members of congress made the right move by excluding a federal proposal in the Omnibus Spending Bill designed to force states to allow “Double 33s” on the road.

Trailer trucks, including mammoth, 33-foot freight trucks, have left a trail of tragedy along every major American roadway. Each year, more than 4,000 people are killed in trailer truck crashes, and more than 100,000 are injured.

While excluding the Double 33s proposal was an important move forward, members of congress also took a step back, as the bill includes an extension of the Collins amendment, which removes truckers “weekends off.”  This allows driving time to exceed 80 hours per week – causing major fatigue, the leading factor in truck-related crashes.

We ask members of congress to stand and deliver on the job they were entrusted to do – which is, to protect the public, not corporate interests – and bring all areas of transportation onto a platform of safety and viability.