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Viable passenger and freight railroad systems are essential to achieving a balanced intermodal transportation system and ensuring personal mobility, the free flow of commerce and national security. It can provide land use alternatives, promote economic development and address environmental issues and offer a transportation alternative to highways and air travel.
States have a role in rail planning, development, funding, incentives, safety and security. In addition, about half the states have acquired railroad facilities to prevent corridor abandonment and preserve or enhance rail service to communities and businesses. In recent years, federal policy concerning passenger rail in particular has increasingly focused on state-federal partnerships—similar to those already in place for highways, transit and aviation—with an enhanced state role in rail planning and funding.
NCSL provides informational resources on both freight and passenger rail issues, including high-speed, intercity passenger rail.
Special Topic: High-Speed, Intercity Passenger Rail
In recent years, boosts in—and controversies over—federal funding have made high-speed, intercity passenger rail a high-profile issue. In January 2010, the president announced that 31 states would receive a portion of the $8 billion made available for high-speed rail through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Congress approved $2.5 billion more for high-speed rail in FY 2010 appropriations, but zeroed out the funding for FY 2011 and FY 2012. In addition, in the months following the 2010 elections, three states—Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin—voluntarily forfeited some or all federal high-speed rail funds they had previously been awarded.
From 2009 through 2011, the NCSL High-Speed Rail Working Group provided state legislators and legislative staff with a forum to discuss their concerns, goals and strategies for the development of high-speed rail in their states and regions. NCSL's resources concerning high-speed rail include the following.
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Updated March 2013