Digest: DiFazio, Graves to return as House Transportation Committee leadership

News Wire Digest for Dec. 4: Advisory group says MBTA overstates need for cuts; Rutgers, NJ Transit receive grant on pedestrian rail safety
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Rep. Peter DeFazio

Friday morning rail news:

Leadership of House transportation committee to return
Democratic and Republican leadership of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will remain unchanged after Democrats elected Peter DeFazio (Ore.) as the committee chair and Republicans chose Sam Graves (Mo.) as the Ranking Member. In a statement, DeFazio — a member of the committee since 1987 and its chair since January 2019 — said he “will continue to be a tireless advocate for commonsense policies that help ensure America’s infrastructure and transportation systems work for all communities, urban and rural alike.” Graves said in a statement that in the next Congress, “We need to find consensus-driven, realistic solutions for an overdue long-term reauthorization of programs to fix our roads, bridges, and other surface transportation infrastructure.

Independent panel says major cuts proposed by MBTA may not be necessary
An independent panel says the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s budget issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are not as bad as the agency depicts them, and it and may not need to impose its proposed major service reductions. The Boston Globe reports the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents communities served by the transit system, says there is “no budgetary justification” for dramatic changes including the end of weekend commuter rail service [see “Planned MBTA cuts would end commuter rail service after 9 p.m., on weekends,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 10, 2020]. MBTA officials say the moves are to address a deficit that could reach or exceed $600 million, but the advisory board’s director, Brian Kane, said the group “came to the conclusion that it’s not as dramatic or draconian as they think it is.” The advisory board reviews the MBTA budget and operating changes, but the Fiscal and Management Control Board has final say.

Rutgers, NJ Transit receive FTA grant for pedestrian safety
Rutgers University and NJ Transit have been selected for a Federal Transit Administration grant to study pedestrian detection under the Safety Research and Demonstration program. The $357,000 grant will allow the use of artificial intelligence technology to gather date and help develop trespasser avoidance programs. NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett said in a press release that the program would benefit passengers, drivers, and pedestrians. “Ultimately, it will save lives,” Corbett said, “and the focus on artificial intelligence to gather data aligns perfectly with NJ Transit’s focus on technology to improve every aspect of our service.”

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