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Public Statements

Hearing of the House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the Transportation Committee - National Rail Policy: Examining Goals, Objectives, and Responsibilities

Hearing

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

As you all know, Chairman Shuster and I are committed to rail reauthorization this year.

We have traveled across the country, talked to various state, local, and federal officials and discussed how the last reauthorization bill affected the railroad industry. We have heard suggestions on how we need to improve our laws so rail transport can expand in a safe and efficient manner.

It is clear that the current rail authorization has helped improve passenger and freight rail service in this country. For example, PRIIA sections 209 and 212 have moved the ball forward with regard to Amtrak's state supported routes and Northeast Corridor operations. These lines of business have increased revenue and eliminated much of the need for any federal operating subsidy.

Our goal is to build on the PRIIA successes, and tackle the challenges that remain for freight and passenger rail. Hopefully this hearing will inform the Committee on what steps need to be taken to reach that goal.

As I stated earlier this year, we need to be pragmatic and transparent and will need all parties to participate in order to deliver the best bipartisan product to the House floor.

As seen by this week's House and Senate Appropriation's marks, we need to operate within realistic budget constraints and I think we all agree reforms are necessary to ensure and leverage every dollar we do have efficiently.

There is no division between the different services Amtrak provides. We need to put a structure in place to allow Congress's investment to strengthen passenger rail.

We need to prioritize in investment. We need a reliable source of funding to invest in existing infrastructure in places like California, the Midwest, and the Northeast Corridor within existing resources. This means we might have to take a hard look at pie in the sky visions such as FRA's multi-billion dollar unrealistic new proposals.

We should invest in projects that will increase safety, increase reliability and reduce trip times without breaking the bank.

Ideally, Prop 1A funding should be invested in realistic, local projects instead of a project that has no realistic business plan, no proven ridership, and exploding costs. For instance, the California State Rail Plan lists 27 capital investment projects for ACE, 36 for the San Joaquin line, and 42 for the Capitol Corridor. Each will benefit existing ridership.

Taxpayers entrust in this body their hard earned dollars and we must be sure those dollars find their way back in the form of tangible benefits.

Throughout my travels, I have heard some reoccurring questions that I want to address with the witnesses today: How do we focus our limited resources on investments that make sense, in places like California? How do we improve governance on the Northeast Corridor to ensure stakeholders have an equal seat at the decision-making table? How do we leverage private sector investment and innovative financing to enhance our ability to invest in infrastructure projects?

These issues are just an example of the difficult task that must tackle together in the next few months.


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