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Congresswoman Brown Partakes in Congressional Field Hearing on Importance of Passenger Rail


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Brown made the following statement:

"I am extremely pleased to be a part of the Transportation Committee Codel to New York City to discuss the importance of the Northeast Corridor, the backbone of our national passenger rail system.

More than 2,200 trains travel the Corridor daily, only 153 of which are Amtrak trains that transport about 16 million annual passengers. The commuter and freight railroads make up the rest of the trains on the Corridor. I don't know if you have ever driven up I-95 to New York but I would much rather take the train than deal with all of that congestion. But there is also increasing congestion on the Northeast Corridor. That high daily usage, coupled with anticipated future capacity constraints, translate into a lot of infrastructure needs on the Corridor. Some of these needs include replacing infrastructure that dates back about 100 years.

I am sure that many of you remember the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project in the early 1980s, which modernized a number of facilities on the Corridor. From about 1990 to 2002, however, very little was invested on the Corridor. In 2003, things started to change, with a new emphasis placed on bringing Amtrak's equipment and infrastructure closer to a state-of-good-repair. Amtrak began a process of ramping up a significant capital program and has since made substantial progress in addressing the backlog of capital needs throughout its system.

In 2008, Congress charted a new course for passenger rail in the United States with the enactment of bipartisan legislation, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act. That law created two new national programs for the development of high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail in the U.S., which later led to a significant federal investment in the Corridor through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Some of that funding enabled Amtrak to replace a 100-year old bridge in Connecticut.

PRIIA also established the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission to help develop a long-term vision and investment strategy for the Corridor. The law also reauthorized Amtrak through the end of this fiscal year.

It is my hope that as we look toward the reauthorization of Amtrak that we build on the successes of PRIIA and continue to increase investment in Amtrak and the States. In fact, I support the President's Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal of creating a dedicated funding source for Amtrak, which would enable Amtrak to better budget for its needs, including major infrastructure improvements.

The fact is that over the last 50 years, the federal government has invested nearly $1.3 trillion in our nation's highways and more than $484 billion in aviation. But only since 1970, when Congress created Amtrak, did we begin to invest in passenger rail. Since that time, we have invested just $67 billion in passenger rail -- only a small fraction of what European and Asian countries have invested. In fact, I was reading a staff memo which stated that the population in the Northeast region essentially equals that of the United Kingdom. It is worth noting, however, that the U.K. spends billions more than the U.S. invests in the entire nation. In fact, through Network Rail, the UK invests about $6.6 billion annually on routine maintenance and improvements. Yet we fight over $1 or $2 billion and then expect miracles out of Amtrak -- somehow they must figure out how to do more with less. If we would just invest like we do in the other modes, we would see the kind of improvements -- trip time, in particular -- that we all have been clamoring for.

With that, I want to give a special thank you to Mr. Boardman for joining us at another Subcommittee hearing. We appreciate your work helping us pull this trip together, and I am especially pleased that the Amtrak Board extended your contract. Amtrak and its employees need you; you have done a superb job there."

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