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Hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure - High Speed Rail


Location: Washington, DC

During the House Transportation and Infrastructure's full committee hearing on high speed rail, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, the Ranking Member of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials subcommittee, made the following statement:

"I'm glad we're holding today's hearing, which is focused on the progress and pitfalls of implementing high-speed and intercity passenger rail in the United States. All of our international competitors are beating us to the punch. They have invested billions of dollars in passenger rail systems that have significantly reduced highway and aviation congestion, while here in America we fail to provide adequate funding for passenger rail and waste $115 BILLION a year in fuel and lost work time sitting in traffic.

Let's step back and look at this committee's progress, or lack thereof, over the past year: we are without a surface transportation bill, an FAA bill, a Water Resources bill, and to top it off, we're here today arguing about a high-speed and intercity passenger rail program that has already been de-funded by the Republicans.

Our country is building huge infrastructure projects in Afghanistan and Iraq, giving tax credits to companies taking jobs overseas, and building massive bridges in the U.S. made with Chinese steel. Yet the committee leadership is here today to trash a program that will improve passenger rail throughout the country and put tens of thousands of people to work.

Since today's hearing is titled "mistakes" in FRA's high-speed and intercity passenger rail program, I thought I would list a few mistakes that I've seen since enactment of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and the Recovery Act.

First, we failed to dedicate any significant funding for passenger rail. Our main competitor, China, is investing $350 billion in high speed rail while the United States has invested a meager $8 billion.

Then, we invited private companies from all over the world, including some of the biggest rail operators and manufacturers in business today to invest time and resources in vying for part of the U.S. high-speed rail market, only to slam the door in their faces by canceling projects and cutting federal funding. Look at Wisconsin. Just yesterday, Talgo announced that it was going to shut down its Milwaukee train manufacturing operations in 2012, killing over 4,700 jobs, because Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rejected federal funding for the high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison when he took office. It's worth noting since we're talking about mistakes that the Governor later re-applied for a portion of the funding he rejected. That is absurd!
Now let me talk about the poster child of mistakes, my home state of Florida.

The mistakes started when Governor Jeb Bush shut down the high-speed rail authority in Florida before they were able to study the most desirable Orlando to Miami route.
Our current Governor, Rick Scott, was able to one up him by returning the State's $2.4 billion award. A ridership study which was in draft form when Governor Scott took office, and was finalized by the Florida Department of Transportation just last month, showed what I've been saying all along: the project would have been an astounding success. The study estimated the ridership at more than 3 million in the first operating year, rising to 4.9 million in the 10th year. Revenue was estimated at $4.2 million in the first operating year, rising to $38 million in the 10th year.

And with respect to jobs, something we should all be focused on, the Florida Department of Transportation's Economic Impact Analysis found that over the cumulative six-year design, construction and service startup period, total employment impacts from the construction of the Tampa-Orlando project were estimated to measure over 30,000 total jobs for the state. Corresponding economic activity, as a result of higher employment, were estimated to amount to a total of $2.3 billion for the state. If not for Governor Scott, we would have had engineering firms, steel and cement factories and construction workers in Florida and across America working on that project as we hold this hearing today.

I want to welcome Secretary LaHood and thank him for all his effort in working out the agreement that averted a possible rail strike during the holiday season. I really believe we've been fortunate to have Secretary LaHood during such challenging times for our nation's transportation system.

With that, I want to welcome today's other panelists, and I look forward to hearing their testimony."

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