Posts Tagged ‘INVEST in America Act’

Amtrak furloughs could be avoided with proper action in Congress

Amtrak, despite having been given $1 billion in funding under the CARES Act to prevent furloughs as a result of COVID-19, has announced that more than 500 – 509 to be exact – SMART members are targeted to be furloughed, effective Oct. 1.

Carrier leadership announced Sept. 1 that approximately 1,950 unionized jobs are being targeted by Amtrak’s latest cost-cutting measures, which come on the heels of voluntary buyouts from earlier this year and a reduction in service on a number of long-distance routes.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has rocked the global economy. However, some countries have it under control and can focus on virus containment and economic recovery while others, such as the United States, are seeing cases continue to rise (more than 6 million nationwide) along with deaths attributed to the virus (approaching 200,000).

“It is our hope to recall furloughed employees as soon as business conditions or funding permits,” Amtrak wrote in its notification of the furloughs.

But will additional funding for Amtrak materialize? There’s a transportation bill – The Moving Forward Act (or HR 2, which contains the INVEST Act) — sitting before the Senate that provides funding for Amtrak that could have averted these furloughs. However, Republican leaders and White House staff declared the bill dead on arrival after it was passed by the House.

“This week, another 2,000 workers learned that they will be losing their jobs due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This time it is largely Amtrak employees who operate trains, provide onboard services, and support passengers who will bear the brunt of this administration’s failure to lead the country during this pandemic. The jobs at the center of today’s announcement are good paying, union jobs that sustain middle class families and will be difficult to replace, especially in a time of sky-high unemployment,” said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “In July, I led the House in passing the Moving Forward Act, which tripled funding for Amtrak to nearly $29 billion. Later that month, the House also approved transportation appropriations legislation that provided $10 billion for Amtrak, including emergency appropriations that contained protections to prevent the furloughing of workers. In fact, our Committee will soon be hearing from workers who are impacted by these furloughs. It’s time for Republicans in the Senate to stop sitting on these important bills and do their job to protect Amtrak employees and so many others currently in need.”
Next week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials will be holding a hearing on Amtrak’s response to the COIVD-19 pandemic. On the docket to be discussed are these furloughs and the carrier’s reduction in service, among others.

Our union is working hand-in-hand with the subcommittee and with receptive members in Congress to see that these cuts are reversed.

“We are doing everything in our power to make sure that this nation’s decision makers are fully aware of the ongoing events at Amtrak and the devastating effects they’re poised to have on our membership,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “One branch of Congress has already greenlit the money. It’s time for the Senate and the White House to do the same.”

H.R. 2 passes U.S. House and moves to Senate

H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.

A major component of this bill is the INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late June.

H.R. 2 contains:

  • a two-person freight crew requirement
  • bus and transit operator safety measures
  • blocked-rail-crossing enforcement
  • a cross-border solution
  • yardmaster hours of service
  • additional funding for Amtrak
  • requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers

“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.

“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”

Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), earlier in the week had an op-ed published that was highly critical of the legislation, targeting the two-person crew portion and one that dealt with study of potential rail transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) specifically, saying the bill “woefully missed the mark.”

In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.

The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:

“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”

Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.

“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”

The Moving Forward Act now moves to the United States Senate, where, according to Politico.com, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy” and vowed that it will die before getting to the White House, where the president has threatened to veto the bill.

Facts about the INVEST in America Act’s 2PC provision

To help combat the spread of misinformation concerning the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity has provided the following facts regarding the two-person crew provision in the bill.

The INVEST Act delivers on Two-Person crews

The INVEST Act, as written, requires a certified locomotive engineer and certified conductor on most freight trains. According to the bill, there are instances that a train may be operated with a reduced crew. Exceptions are listed below:

A freight train may be operated with a reduced crew, if:

  • The train operations are within a rail yard, terminal area, or on auxiliary or industry track
  • It does not exceed a maximum speed of 25 mph on territory with an average track grade of less than 2% for any segment of track that is at least two continuous miles
  • The locomotives are performing assistance to a train that has incurred mechanical failure or lacks the power to traverse difficult terrain, including to or from the location where assistance is provided
  • The locomotives are not attached to any equipment (except a caboose) and do not travel further than 30 miles from a rail yard
  • A location where one-person operations were being utilized one year prior to the date of enactment of this bill, only if the DOT Secretary determines that the operation achieves an equivalent level of safety (Note: The Secretary of the DOT is appointed by the President of the United States)

SHORT LINE EXCEPTION

In addition to the above, a train may be operated with a reduced crew, if:

  • The carrier has fewer than 400,000 total employee work hours annually and an annual revenue of less than $20,000,000

A TRAIN MUST BE OPERATED BY A TWO-PERSON CREW (NO EXCEPTION), IF:

  • It is transporting one or more loaded cares carrying material toxic by inhalation
  • It is carrying 20 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block
  • It has 35 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid throughout its consist
  • It is 7,500 feet in length or longer

The INVEST Act is poised to be the most significant piece of rail-related legislation this generation of railroaders has seen since the passage of the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970.

INVEST in America Act officially introduced by DeFazio

Washington, D.C. – Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) last week officially introduced the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act during a pro forma session in the House. The INVEST in America Act, a 5-year, nearly $500 billion investment in our nation’s infrastructure, is a key component of the Moving Forward Framework that House Democrats released earlier this year. After Committee leaders unveiled the bill text Wednesday, June 3rd, support started pouring in from a diverse array of transportation, environmental, worker, and safety advocates.

DeFazio

What advocates from around the country are saying about the INVEST in America Act:

“We applaud Chairman Peter DeFazio for listening to the needs of workers represented by SMART Transportation Division, and responding accordingly. By providing robust funding for infrastructure, passenger rail, and transit, as well as the inclusion of smart transportation policy, the Invest in America Act represents a bold step forward for our members,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of SMART-TD.

“Title V of the INVEST in America Act is the most significant piece of railroad legislation since the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008,” BLET (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen) National President Dennis R. Pierce said.

“Past reauthorizations have been an exercise in spending more money and magically wishing for better outcomes with outdated policy, which was always foolish,” said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America. “With this new proposal from Chairman DeFazio, the INVEST in America Act, the House is charting a welcome course toward updating our country’s 1950’s approach to transportation.”

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), on behalf of the entire public transportation industry, would like to thank House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Dan Lipinski (D-IL) for their extraordinary leadership in crafting the INVEST in America Act. We strongly support the bill and its critical investments for surface transportation infrastructure, including $105 billion for public transportation and $60 billion for commuter rail, Amtrak, and other high-performance rail.”

“For too long, the needs of professional drivers and others who work in the transportation sector have been ignored by lawmakers,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “This legislation will set the nation on the right path by making badly needed infrastructure improvements while also ensuring that workers are protected on the job.”

“On behalf of ATA members helping move 71 percent of our nation’s freight, we applaud Chairman DeFazio for fulfilling his commitment to produce a comprehensive infrastructure bill, and we look forward to working with House Ways & Means Chairman Neal to fund it—with real money,” American Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Spear.

“The National League of Cities thanks Rep. Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, for proposing legislation that eases the impacts of COVID-19 on critical transportation projects in our cities, towns, and villages. The INVEST Act would provide increased federal support for next year’s transportation projects, grow strategic transit and rail investments over the next five years and improve intergovernmental collaboration.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) applauds House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio for today’s introduction of the INVEST in America Act. Chairman DeFazio is a traffic safety champion and has made saving lives a priority in this legislation.”

Stephanie Gidigbi, director of policy and partnerships for NRDC’s (Natural Resources Defense Council) Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program: “For too many years, funding from Washington has built roads and highways that divided low-income communities and communities of color without offering the transportation alternatives all of us can use. The INVEST Act offers a different path, one that leads to a more just, equitable, and climate-resilient future. Crucially, this bill ensures all communities have access to pedestrian, biking and transit options. It also will help us slash carbon pollution by investing in electric-vehicle charging stations, while ensuring that roads, bridges and transit lines are able to withstand the stronger storms and floods we must prepare for because of climate change.”

“The National Safety Council applauds House lawmakers for the INVEST in America Act, the reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. For too long, the United States has consistently avoided the hard choices needed to save lives on the roadways. This proposal is an opportunity for us to start making the right choices so we can save lives, because we know that all traffic deaths are preventable.”

“The Coalition for America’s Gateways & Trade Corridors (CAGTC) applauds the INVEST in America Act’s continuation of dedicated investment in our nation’s freight assets, first through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Program (INFRA) in Fiscal Year 2021, then through the Projects of National and Regional Significance Program (PNRS) through the remaining years of the proposal. Competitive grant programs are essential to funding large-scale goods movement infrastructure projects, which are difficult to fund through traditional distribution methods such as formula programs.”

“Unfortunately, we do not yet have a cure for COVID-19. But, we do have proven and available safety solutions to address the preventable fatalities and injuries occurring on our Nation’s roadways year after year,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). “We commend Chairman DeFazio, Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) for sponsoring the INVEST in America Act and advancing important safety countermeasures.”  Advocates looks forward to working with the Committee as our review of this legislation continues.

ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt: “As the association that promotes technology to reduce fatalities, congestion and emissions, ITS America is gratified to see so many positive aspects in the bill that will lead to more research in and deployment of technology, including increasing access to mobility services by making Mobility on Demand an eligible activity under transit programs.”

 “We commend Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) for leading the effort to address our nation’s transportation needs, including the costly backlog of transportation projects in our parks,” said Emily Douce of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Together we want to ensure park visitors can continue to experience and enjoy these places now, and for years to come.”

“The INVEST Act reflects more than a year of advocacy by the League, our partners, and our members to push for a future where our transportation system works better for all people, especially people biking and walking,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists.

“We know that the INVEST Act can make a difference in transportation equity across the country and the Safe Routes Partnership looks forward to supporting its passage and implementation for Safe Routes to Schools, to parks, to healthy food, and so many other essential parts of our lives,” said Cassandra Isidro, executive director of Safe Routes Partnership.

Railway Supply Institute (RSI) President Mike O’Malley: “This legislation will provide over $60 billion in much-needed funding to support substantive improvements to rail infrastructure across the country, including $29 billion for Amtrak and $19 billion for passenger rail improvement, modernization, and expansion projects. We also commend inclusion of strong funding levels for federal transit and grade crossing safety programs.  These investments will enhance safety for millions of passengers, preserve thousands of jobs, and support our domestic supply chain at this critical time.”

“On behalf of The Bus Coalition (TBC) and its members, I applaud the historic level of bus transit funding included in Chairman DeFazio’s reauthorization proposal. Buses are the backbone of transit service across America providing more than one-half of all trips on public transportation. Our customers rely on buses daily to access jobs, health care, education, and other critical destinations. The level of investment included in the bill will go a long way toward upgrading and replacing our aging and shrinking bus fleets, boost economic growth and help enhance bus service in all communities across the country,” said The Bus Coalition President Bill Carpenter.

CTAA [Community Transportation Association of America] members provide critical trips and support their vulnerable populations by acting as a lifeline. The record level of investment proposed in this bill would not only allow our rural, tribal, specialized and small-urban transit providers to continue meeting demand, but explore new and innovative ways to better serve their communities, said Scott Bogren, Executive Director of CTAA. “We applaud this bill’s important emphasis on improved bus operations and capital investment, the incorporation of meaningful improvements to procurement and vehicle disposition, and the focus on transit services for low-income and persistent poverty communities.”

“Through the INVEST in America Act, the House T&I Committee tackles many of the most critical issues facing America’s transportation system—including safety, climate and maintenance,” said Kevin Mills, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s vice president of policy. “The bill recognizes and advances policies to address the tragic and growing number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities that occur on our roads and it creates incentives to cut carbon emissions.  It makes active transportation eligible for many programs and increases dedicated investment in trails, walking and biking programs to more than $1.5 billion a year—allocating resources to the nation’s fundamental active transportation funding programs like Transportation Alternatives and the Recreational Trails Program, while ensuring that Transportation Alternatives funding remains dedicated to its intended purpose in all states. Especially exciting is a new investment to connect walking and biking facilities within our communities and between regions.”

For a running list of supporters and more information about the INVEST in America Act, click here.

A message from President Ferguson on the INVEST in America Act

March 20, 2020

All Members — SMART Transportation Division

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, House Democrats released the text of a $500 billion five-year funding authorization bill that defines their vision for the future of transportation in America, as well as outlines their plans to refresh and renew the infrastructure of the nation’s surface transportation network.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.

Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.

Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.

But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.

I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.

There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.

Fraternally yours,

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

ABOUT THE INVEST IN AMERICA ACT