Regional Rail Commissions

Regional Rail Commissions (RRCs)

What are RRCs?

RRCs are  interstate compacts that enable two or more contiguous states to jointly study and develop rail projects for their mutual (regional)  benefit.

  • RRCs are authorized to undertake studies, hold hearings, apply for grants, acquire money or property, formulate and execute plans and policies emphasising the purpose of the compact before Congress and appropriate officers and agencies of the United States, and exercise other powers as appropriate to carry out its functions.
  • One RRC, the Southern Rail Commission (SRC), was established in 1982 by Congress through the passing of Public Law 97-213.
  • The creation of more RRCs is being considered by Congress this year, including one for the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The Canadian province of British Columbia could also join.
  • RRCs could be used on behalf of traditional and high-speed rail projects.
  • RRCs offer the ability to sustain the decades-long process needed to build out new corridors while state administrations and DOT staffs change.

More information is available about RRCs on the AAWA website.

What is the current status of these commissions?

  • Congress is including language in upcoming Amtrak reauthorization bills which would formally recognize up to ten new RRCs beyond the existing SRC.
  • Staff of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are drafting bill text now for inclusion in the House reauthorization bill.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee has completed its bill language.
  • Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) is sponsoring the bill in the House.
  • Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) is being asked to add a provision to the bill to allow cross-border membership, provided that respective membership dues are paid. This would be very useful in the Northwest with British Columbia, and also in the Northeast with Quebec, where a new Boston to Montreal corridor is being planned.

How can we help?

Showing broad support for the creation of more RRCs is crucial. You can sign a letter of support and reach out to other organizations asking them to do the same.

Who should express their support?

  • Rail advocacy organizations
  • MPOs
  • Municipal leagues
  • Regional rail planning efforts
  • Government agencies
  • Local and state elected officials

Letters of support from organizations like these will have an enormous impact. Individuals are also welcome to express their support for RRCs.

What should be included in the letter?

  • Your organization’s stated support for a Northwest Rail Commission
  • The project(s) and corridor(s) that you wish to be managed or considered by the commission
  • How your organization’s stakeholders and your community will benefit from the commission and the projects you envision it working on
  • Your support for additional provisions, such as options for international paid participation in the commission

How do we submit our letter of support?

Please contact your Senators and Representatives, especially those who are on the House Transportation Committee and Senate Commerce Committee. Washington's committee members include Senator Maria Cantwell, Rep. Marilyn Strickland, and Rep. Rick Larsen.

Please also send a copy of your letter to All Aboard Washington (contact information here), as well as:

John Robert Smith
Chair, Transportation for America
1152 15th St. NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20005
Email: [email protected]

Please let us know if you have any questions. Thank you for supporting RRCs!