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Letter to The Honorable James L. Oberstar, Chairman of Committe on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Honorable John L. Mica, Ranking Member

Dear Chairman Oberstar and Ranking Member Mica:

In support of the Coalition of Northeast Governors (CONEG) and Amtrak's submission of a multi-state proposal requesting that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) lead a planning effort to further define the role of high-speed rail in the Northeast, and as Members representing districts along the Northeast Corridor, we are writing to request that you consider holding a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on high-speed rail development in the Northeast Corridor.

The Northeast "mega-region" between Boston and Washington, D.C. is the most densely populated area of our country, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population on only 2 percent of our nation's land. As a result, when it comes to airport delays and roadway travel, the Northeast Corridor (NEC) has consistently been ranked among the most heavily congested regions in the country. In fact, a recent mobility report indicates that travelers in the Northeast waste approximately 700,000 hours and 500,000 gallons of fuel sitting in traffic delays every year. That is why it is absolutely vital that the NEC be eligible for funding to continue to improve and upgrade its high-speed rail service, which currently averages as few as 66 miles per hour in some areas.

Despite the demand for high-speed passenger rail service in the heavily congested Northeast Corridor, there remain several outlying issues which threaten the NEC's access to necessary funding. Before significant upgrades of the high-speed rail service can be initiated along the corridor, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) must complete an updated Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). We supported funding in the FY10 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill to complete a PEIS, and the study is now ready to move forward in the immediate term.

In addition, as you know, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) of 2008 established a high-speed rail (HSR) corridor development program, and restricts eligibility for this program to projects located on a federally designated corridor. Despite the fact that Amtrak's Acela line, located on the NEC, is our country's only current "high-speed" rail line, the NEC has not been designated as a high-speed rail corridor. This lack of designation shuts states along the NEC out of competing for PRIIA grant money available to other rail lines, and has already resulted in the NEC missing out on adequate funding for badly-needed infrastructure upgrades and rail expansion projects. We have sponsored legislation (H.R. 4838) to designate the Northeast Corridor as a high-speed rail corridor and ensure that the NEC is placed on a level playing field when competing for high-speed rail development grants. Given the expected consideration of surface transportation authorization legislation within the next year, we believe that Committee review of this bill is timely.

We thank you for your consideration of this request for a hearing on high-speed rail development in the Northeast Corridor and look forward to working with you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Michael N. Castle
Member of Congress

Michael Capuano
Member of Congress

C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger
Member of Congress

Peter King
Member of Congress

Joseph Sestak
Member of Congress

Elijah Cummings
Member of Congress

William J. Pascrell
Member of Congress


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