Senate panel OKs reform measure on railroad-permit process

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation  advanced U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) Track, Railroad and Infrastructure Network (TRAIN) Act late last week, moving it another step closer to becoming law.

The legislation was approved as part of the Railroad Reform, Enhancement and Efficiency Act, sponsored by fellow Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). The bipartisan bill essentially reforms the process for obtaining environmental permits for railroad projects to establish a more efficient method of approving the infrastructure for railroads.

“Freight rail is integral to our economy and continues to grow,” Blunt said. “This bipartisan measure will help increase investment and streamline permitting while ensuring burdensome federal regulations do not hamper innovation in our nation’s freight and passenger rail industry.”

The measure recently was endorsed by the Missouri Railroad Association and promoted as a support tool to garner additional investment in rail systems while still preserving environmental quality.

The railroad industry has dealt with challenges in recent years dealing with the federal environmental permitting process. These challenges have resulted in several administrative delays unrelated to environmental concerns, which slow efficiency and increase costs, reducing the amount of capital that railroads have available to invest in projects.

Three years ago, Congress passed similar legislation — as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act — to identify duplicative and burdensome permitting procedures for the infrastructure projects of other forms of transportation. The TRAIN Act would expand these reforms to cover railroad infrastructure.