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Public Statements

Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FEDERAL RAILROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - September 29, 2008)


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I thank my long-time friend and colleague in the Senate, the Senator from Texas. For so many reasons she is a real leader on our team, on the team of leadership.

But how many times, if I might ask the Senator from Texas, have you taken this bill to the floor of the Senate on behalf of Amtrak, rail safety, Metro? Would you mind telling us how many times?

Mrs. HUTCHISON. I say to Senator Warner, thank you. It is my pleasure to have supported Amtrak from the day I walked in the door 15 years ago. I think the partnership between the Northeast corridor supporters of Amtrak and the rest of the country supporters has created a much stronger system. We are seeing that in the ridership. I think if we make the commitment to Amtrak we make to the other modes of transportation, it will be better for our whole country and give more options to the people of our country.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I recognize that great contribution, but I wanted it a part of the Record.

I say to my long-time friend, Mr. Lautenberg, the distinguished senior Senator from New Jersey, I hope in your remarks you will recite how many times you have gone to the floor on behalf of people seeking the needs of not only Amtrak but the rail safety and the Metro funds which are in this bill this time.

These two Senators have been the engine on this very important piece of legislation. The distinguished Acting President pro tempore and I are proud to represent Virginia, one of the beneficiaries of this system. But I have also tried through my many years in the Senate to have a voice for the District of Columbia.

This Amtrak as well as the Metro funds in here are the pulse beat, the arteries which feed the Nation's Capital. Some 40 to 50 of the various Government agencies serving our Nation are accessed with Amtrak. I say to my colleagues in the Senate, all 100 Senators--all 100 Senators--have staff members and the families of staff, and ourselves, who very often utilize the Metro system and indeed access part of the Amtrak system. This is a 10-year funding for the Metro for capital improvement and operating.

Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, will the Senator yield?

Mr. WARNER. Yes.

Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, I wish to say on that point, the distinguished senior Senator from Virginia has mentioned how important the Metro part of it is. I think he has represented so well the interests of all the people who live and work in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

It also applies, I would expand, to the visitors to our capital because the rail line on Amtrak that goes from Baltimore Airport to the District, our capital, and from Washington National Airport to our capital, has been so helped by having this kind of service from Amtrak at National Airport or Baltimore to be able to get on that train and come visit our capital. That is a mode of transportation that is used by the millions of visitors who come to visit our capital.

This is part of the mobility we provide to people who bring their families here. It is the most efficient and least costly way to get into the District to show children the opportunity to see our capital.

I appreciate the senior Senator from Virginia pointing out that this is part of our responsibility.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Virginia.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I wish to add that this system, the Metro system, is a feeder to the Amtrak. It was started in 1960 under President Eisenhower. Each year, the Congress has been a supporter of this system. But key to this--and I compliment my colleagues in the House, Congressmen Moran and Davis--are the matching funds from each State, so the portion of authorization we seek for Metro in this would be matched by the several States and the District of Columbia.

Mr. President, I intend to cast a ``yea'' vote on cloture on the motion to concur with the House amendment to the Railway Safety-Amtrak bill. I believe this legislative package is critical for so many reasons.

Of highest importance to me, though, is a much-needed authorization of $1.5 billion over 10 years for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, WMATA, the Metro system that probably brought a majority of our staffers to work this morning.

WMATA has been one of the Washington, DC, metro area's most successful partnerships with the Federal Government.

In 1960, President Eisenhower signed legislation to provide for the development of a regional rail system for the Nation's Capital and to support the Federal Government. Since 1960, Congress has continually reaffirmed the Federal Government's commitment to Metro by passing periodic reauthorizing bills.

Over half of Metro's riders at peak times are Federal employees and contractors, and a large percentage of these riders are Virginia residents.

Based on Metro's 2007 Rail Ridership Survey, approximately 40 percent of respondents identified themselves as Federal workers who ride Metrorail to work. 39 percent of that group identified themselves as Virginia residents.

We are talking about thousands of cars taken off the major roadways each day because of our area's Metro system.

Metro's record riderships have occurred during historic events where people from all over the country flock to the Nation's Capital to honor their Federal Government: President Reagan's funeral, Fourth of July celebrations, Presidential inaugurations. In addition, the Metro system proved indispensable to the Federal Government and the Nation's Capital generally in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Over 50 Federal agencies in the National Capital Region are located adjacent to Metro stations. Federal agencies rely on WMATA to get their employees to and from the workplace year-round, in all types of weather.

As I mentioned, the Railway Safety-Amtrak bill includes $1.5 billion in Federal Transit Authority funding over 10 years for capital and preventative maintenance projects for WMATA. This language was added by voice vote to the Amtrak bill by my delegation mate, Congressman TOM DAVIS, as a floor amendment during the House's Amtrak debate over the summer.

These dollars will be matched by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Washington, DC, and the State of Maryland.

This critical investment will help provide for much-needed improvements to this stressed transit system. Projects such as station and facility rehabilitation and tunnel repairs will be undertaken.

These funds will also allow WMATA to add new rail cars and buses to help congestion during peak hours.

This critical legislation, which would authorize much-needed Federal funding, contingent on State and local dedicated matches, recognizes how vital Metro is to the region and the Federal Government.

Such legislation is integral to the well-being of the area's transportation system, as we struggle to address traffic congestion, skyrocketing gas prices, global climate change, and the local quality-of-life concerns.

From its inception, the Federal Government has played a significant role in funding the construction and operation of the Metrorail system. I hope this Congress will continue to show that support.

I ask my colleagues to join me in voting ``yes'' for WMATA today.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, if the Senator would yield, I would just express my appreciation and thanks to the Senator from New Jersey. After 30 years in the Senate, much of that time has been spent working with him on a wide range of issues, many of them international issues of great importance. But I am always happy to come back to the fundamentals of what makes this institution work, and that is our staff and employees and others who are dependent upon this system. I thank the Senator.

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