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Public Statements

Taking Responsible Action for Community Safety Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROSKAM. First of all, I want to thank Chairman Oberstar for his leadership and for his willingness to listen and for his thoughtful approach on this and for how he has brought, really, a bipartisan group together in trying to drive towards a solution.

Since coming to Congress, I've noticed that, many times, what we need to do is to spend time bringing statutes up to date, and this is just one of those examples. We've been struggling over these past several days with the financial markets and, in many cases, with a regulatory environment that isn't regulating properly. Well, here is an opportunity for us to be proactive and to bring a regulation up to date to really deal with current needs. Giving the Surface Transportation Board the authority to consider a couple of things, I think, is very thoughtful and very wise and very measured. This is what this bill is about.

It says that the Surface Transportation Board in these transactions has to consider a couple of things. It has to consider the impact on safety and the environment. It has to consider the impact of grade crossings, of HAZMAT, of emergency response time, and of noise. In my view, those are not unreasonable requests. It doesn't predetermine an outcome. It doesn't say what they need to do with that information, but it says, as a matter of record, that they have to consider that.

Now a word about Canadian National: Whether or not Canadian National decided to show up at a hearing is really their prerogative. I just confirmed with the chairman that they were welcomed to show up. This is a pattern, frankly, that we've seen with Canadian National in our community where we were told they would show up at any time and at any place to talk to anyone, but when a forum was created, they waived off of that.

Now let's just set that aside. Here we have a chance to create a statute that says, if you're going to increase rail traffic through a community, you've got to consider the cost, and you've got to consider the cost on the community.

The gentlelady from Illinois (Mrs. Biggert) spoke a couple of minutes ago about the cost of one of these rail crossings and of the cost of a grade separation. They are a thing to behold, and they are incredibly expensive. The fact that Canadian National in this particular case has several tens of millions of dollars on the table doesn't anywhere near answer the cost to local taxpayers who would be asked to bear the burden with very little benefit.

So I think the chairman's approach on this--the way he has brought a bipartisan group together around it and the thoughtfulness of it and, really, the holistic way that this would be evaluated--is a very light touch, in fact, and he is not coming down with a heavy hand. I am strongly supportive of it.


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