TAKING RESPONSIBLE ACTION FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY ACT -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2008)
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Mrs. BIGGERT. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the TRACS Act legislation being presented here.
I thank the chairman of the committee, Mr. Oberstar, for all of the work that he has done on this bill, and I'm really very proud to be an original cosponsor on it.
I really believe in the rail system. I believe in our transportation system, and I think that we have always put our railroads in a very high context as far as being able to move our goods across this country and being able to ship at a reasonable rate. A situation has come up, something that, I think, is very unfair, and I think it is what this legislation will address.
In considering a merger, the STB is required to look at how it affects Congress. If there is just one major rail, just one--a class A--then they don't have the same requirements that other mergers have. If it's a class 1 and more than a class 1, then the STB, the Surface Transportation Board, is required to consider the safety and environmental effect of the proposed transaction, including the effects on local communities: the traffic congestion, the grade crossing, the public safety, the socioeconomic impact, and the traffic congestion--commuter rail and Amtrak.
The clarification that we want to make is, if there is just one of the class 1 rails, then they need to take these same things into consideration.
Mr. Whitfield of Kentucky talked about the rural area. I think we're really looking at congested areas, when a merger is to take place that will affect an area of densely populated areas such as the suburbs of our great cities. It's not just one area that's going to be affected. Mark my words that these types of merger requirements will affect so many more than just the Chicago area, as was suggested by the chairman of the subcommittee.
I don't think that our purpose here today is to kill any merger. It is to clarify and to make sure that there is fairness in what the Surface Transportation Board will look at. Will they look at just the commerce and competitiveness of two rail lines and how it will affect all of the competition between all of the rails or will they also take into account the effect on the public interest and on the communities that are involved?
Now, in the area that we've been talking about in Chicago, I have to say that this is an area that has grown up around the railroads. It has increased to such a dense population that socioeconomic issues are affected, that public safety is affected and that traffic congestion is affected. All we want is to clarify that the Surface Transportation Board can take that into account.
I have just one other clarification about mitigation. I didn't want to get into specifics, but in this issue, the mitigation would be $30 million. Now, I have in my community a rail crossing that is being put underground, and it has nothing to do with this other line. The cost of that is $53 million to have a separate grade crossing. So, when we talk about $30 million that would affect at least 40 communities and at least 141 rail crossings, I think this is something to consider.
So it's just a clarification, and I would urge my colleagues to vote for it.
I thank the chairman so much for bringing this up and for having a hearing which, I think, was very open.
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