While rail ridership increased by record numbers, House legislation introduced late last week would invest $14.4 billion to promote rail travel, relieve bottlenecks and begin investment in a new generation of high-speed rail.

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (HR 6003) would invest $14.4 billion over five years.

This legislation wins the Triple Crown. In addition to providing Americans alternatives to paying high prices at the pump and the headaches of air travel, a revitalized rail system will save billions that would otherwise be spent on expanding existing airports and highways, said John Krieger, an advocate for transportation at U.S. PIRG.

Americas economic competitors in Europe and Asia are spending billions for networks of high-speed rail traveling over 200 mph. In an age of oil scarcity, we cant afford to fall further behind.

As with the Senate bill which passed 70-22 last fall, the House measure would establish a competitive state grant process for high-speed corridors with matching grants of up to 80 percent.

Presently, highway projects typically receive federal matching money equaling this 80 percent level of cost sharing, while public transportation projects typically receive a 50 percent match.

The proposed legislation also includes necessary funding for infrastructure repairs and investment in improved efficiency, unlike past passenger rail allocations which barely provided for operations along the system while long-term sustainability suffered.

Amtrak reported the fifth straight record year for ridership in 2007. Meanwhile total vehicle miles for cars and trucks fell for the first time since the oil crisis of the 1970s.

America needs to be investing in the trends of the future, and that means more and faster rail travel. Anyone who has been to a gas station or airport lately can see that, said Krieger.