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Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008

Location: Washington, DC

PASSENGER RAIL INVESTMENT AND IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - June 11, 2008)


Mr. DAVIS of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today in strong support of the Davis-Van Hollen-Hoyer amendment to the Passenger Rail and Investment Improvement Act of 2008. This amendment would reaffirm the Federal Government's longstanding commitment to the regional transportation system critical to keeping the Government open and operating efficiently.

The precedent for Federal investment in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority dates back to 1960, when President Eisenhower signed the ``National Capital Transportation Act,'' creating the agency responsible for developing a regional rail system for the Nation's Capital.

Since that time, Congress has infused the system with funding for construction of the original 103-mile system on multiple occasions.

The Federal Government has a vested interest in the long-term sustainability of the Metro system. After all, approximately half of the system's peak ridership is composed of Federal employees and contractors and over 50 Federal agencies in the National Capital Region are located adjacent to Metro stations. These Federal agencies rely on Metro to get their employees to and from the workplace year-round, in all types of weather.

Unlike other transit systems throughout the country, however, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority cannot generate revenues from the property adjacent to Metro stations because the property is disproportionately occupied by Federal buildings, embassies and non-profit organizations. This amendment would make up for this discrepancy.

In exchange for the reauthorization, the Davis-Van Hollen-Hoyer amendment would require Maryland, D.C. and Virginia--at long last--to develop dedicated funding sources for the Metro system. All three local jurisdictions have already taken steps to fulfill this Federal requirement--although the job is not yet done. Virginia's efforts to establish a dedicated source of funding for Metro was recently struck down by the Virginia Supreme Court, forcing local legislators to go back to the drawing board to develop a new mechanism to fund Metro.

In addition, in order to address some of the significant management challenges facing Metro, the amendment would require the establishment of an independent inspector general for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to oversee its spending and finances, and it would add four federal members to WMATA's Board of Directors to help ensure the transportation needs of the federal government are adequately addressed.

The reauthorization of Federal funding, as well as the increased federal oversight of WMATA, must not face further delay. Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that the Transit Authority is in dire need of additional financing--to the tune of $489 million--to address short-term capital improvement needs such as track replacement, rail car safety improvements, and repairs to deteriorating infrastructure. This needed funding for the agency's capital budget is above and beyond the additional funding generated by Metro's recent fare increase, which goes to the agency's operating budget.

This federal funding will not be going toward expansions to the Metro system--the funding will be dedicated exclusively to overhauling the agency's capital and infrastructure, which has not undergone a comprehensive overhaul since the system was created several decades ago.

The House passed legislation similar to this amendment during the 109th Congress but we were unable to get it through the Senate before time ran out.

I urge my colleagues to support this critical investment in the transportation infrastructure which supports our Federal Government. It is only a matter of time before the reports of potential disasters in the transit system serving the Nation's capital become reports of actual disasters involving collapsed platforms or derailed trains. We must not stand by and wait for that to happen before we take action.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.


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