FEDERAL RAILROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - October 17, 2007)
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Mr. BAKER. I thank the ranking member for yielding his time. I certainly appreciate the good work he has done with Ranking Member Mica on this important rail safety bill. Of course, Chairwoman Brown and Chairman Oberstar have been exemplary in working in a bipartisan way to bring this product to the House floor today, and I certainly hope all Members will find a way to support this legislation.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today to speak to only one element of the bill that I had particular interest in, and that is with regard to a new reporting requirement for the rails to disclose on an annual basis to the Surface Transportation Board the amount of money spent out of their capital for improvements to rail, track, locomotives and other related maintenance which will give us, I believe for the first time, critical metrics to analyze what they are doing to preserve the safety of our rail system.
Of course, safety is uppermost in our mind today, but our rail system is also the heart of our economy. The ability to move goods and services and people across this great Nation over our rail system is absolutely essential going forward. We must judge based on their actual expenditure whether the rails themselves are engaging in appropriate conduct in spending the necessary funds to make this system safe and sound.
I have great concerns that in periods of record profitability, Wall Street analysts have identified these systems as being very undervalued. In fact, there are indications that some hedge fund managers are acquiring large blocks of railroad stock and the consequential reaction has been by the rails to repurchase their own stock and perhaps divert needed resources from necessary and very important infrastructure improvements.
I commend the committee leadership for the inclusion of this important provision, as I think going forward it will enable this Congress to take actions that are necessary and proper to preserve this important system.
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