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Public Statements

Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SHUSTER. I just want to remind my colleague from New York, as he is walking off the floor, that it was the Democratic-controlled Congress that was unable to pass a transportation bill when they had control of this body for the past couple of years.

Today, I come to the floor in opposition to the motion to instruct; and, quite frankly, I'm surprised, I'm shocked, I'm stunned that my colleagues on the other side are willing to take up a Senate bill which is a bad bill and, in fact, there's a couple of provisions in there that I would think the ranking member of the full committee and the ranking member of the Railroad Subcommittee would embrace. There is a coal ash provision in there which is going to be good for coal in West Virginia, so that is something I would hope that we would embrace going to conference, to come out and save those jobs in West Virginia, create more jobs.

Then, of course, the gentlelady from Florida, she embraces the Senate bill, which is going to be a disincentive for private money. It's my understanding that Florida is a leader when it comes to working with the private sector to build infrastructure. Why in the world would we want to have a disincentive out there for public-private partnerships when Florida will benefit mightily from it? Again, as I said, I'm stunned that we're standing here today with this motion to instruct.

The Senate bill fails to make real reforms, continues the transportation enhancement and safety routes, the school programs that mandate bike paths and roadside flowers and ``walking school bus'' programs. You would think that the people in Pennsylvania, Florida or West Virginia didn't love their kids enough that they wouldn't be able to instruct them on their own how to go to school safely.

Also, the people in Pennsylvania, we need to spend that money--not on bike paths, although I love bike paths, I have got a few of them in my district--but the time we face today should be focused on repairing those bridges when Pennsylvania has over 5,000 bridges that are in desperate need of repair. Again, the Senate bill continues to mandate that they hire a bike/pedestrian coordinator and a Safe Routes to School coordinator. Like I said, those are things I don't believe belong in this bill.

Further, the Senate bill fails, or it creates, actually, a national freight program adding to bureaucracy at PennDOT. The new freight program allows States to use up to 10 percent of their appropriated funds for freight rail projects, which means less money for highways and bridges. I'm an advocate for rail in this country. I don't believe that Class I's would want anything to do with this because every time they have got involved with Federal money, it takes a lot longer and it's a lot more expensive. I don't even believe that the Class I's would embrace a program like this that the Senate is putting forward out there. The Federal regulatory provisions for passenger rail providers include rail authorities that are intended to stifle competition. Once again, there's private sector initiatives going on all over this country when it's coming to commuter rail.

Another thing, positive train controls, the Senate doesn't push that back. We found the technology is not there; it's not right. We don't have it. You can't use alternative forms of safety devices when it comes to positive train control.

In addition to that, in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, SEPTA, they are going to have to spend half of their capital money, half of their capital dollars, to put positive train control in place. This is going to cause even the trains in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area to be less safe because they are not going to be spending on fixing their rolling stock and rehabilitating their rail lines.

So this bill, again, falls far short of any kind of reforms we need, as well as the Railroad Rehabilitation Improvement Financing fund, which is a loan program to tap into $35 billion.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. MICA. I yield the gentleman 30 additional seconds.

Mr. SHUSTER. Now, that's the kind of reform we need to see, not forcing States to spend 10 percent in freight rail projects, but let's let them tap into this RRIF loan program and make it easier.

The way our bill and our reforms are, it would make it much easier for the Class I's, and especially the short lines, to be able to invest those dollars at low interest rates and improve the freight rail system in this country.

Again, I'm stunned that my colleagues wouldn't support these what I consider to be groundbreaking reforms that will allow us to spend more money on building roads and bridges.

With that, I urge a rejection of this motion to instruct.

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