Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing on “The Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program: Mistakes and Lessons Learned”

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 Time: 08:00 AM

There was no video broadcast for this event.


Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing on “The Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program: Mistakes and Lessons Learned”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011; 11:00 AM

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

Statement of the Honorable Nick J. Rahall, II
Ranking Democratic Member
Full Committee Hearing on the “Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Programs:  Mistakes and Lessons Learned”|
December 6, 2011

I am pleased to be here this morning to discuss the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs.

Some today will say it was a “mistake” to spread the available funding across the country and that it should have all been directed toward the Northeast Corridor.  We have heard time and time again from certain quarters that the Northeast Corridor represents the best and only opportunity for true high-speed rail in the United States.

But I would like to remind my colleagues that this Congress needs to remain focused on developing a national program.   Investment in a national intercity passenger rail system will help relieve the congestion that cripples our economic competitiveness and it will provide convenient alternatives for Americans across the country, not just those living along the East coast.

After all, it was a national vision that led to the creation of the world’s most advanced highway and aviation networks – helping to spur unprecedented economic growth, foster new communities, connect cities, towns, and regions, and create millions of jobs. The Federal Government, States, local communities, and the private sector all worked together to realize that national vision.

So it will require big and bold investments of a national scope to continue to create a rail system that is fit for tackling the demands of the 21st century economy.  But I would also like to remind my colleagues that the creation of the Interstate Highway System did not happen overnight.   In fact, it took 60 years and trillions of dollars to get where we are today with our highway and aviation systems. But if we do not make the significant investments today, it may be too late to compete with our competitors down the line.

The investments made through the FRA’s high-speed and intercity passenger rail grant programs are projected to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs nationwide.  As many Americans continue to recover from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, these job creation initiatives play an important role.  In addition to creating construction jobs, strict Buy America requirements will help spur economic growth in the rail manufacturing industry, to create jobs and develop a globally competitive industry.

We continue to hear claims that the DOT application selection process was not transparent, but a GAO report released in May 2011 calls these accusations into question and, to the contrary, said the FRA selection process was an example of “good grant making.”

With the establishment of and subsequent funding provided for the high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs, the FRA had to transition overnight from a primarily rail safety agency to an agency that could oversee a multibillion dollar grant making process.  In a short time, FRA developed an extensive and multi-layered review process to review hundreds of applications.  DOT also engaged in significant nationwide outreach efforts to all stakeholders. I am pleased to learn that the DOT has incorporated all of the GAO recommendations into their selection process; already implementing them for their last two rounds of application selection.

For the first time in decades, we have a grant program that has set forth a new path to meet the growing demands for passenger rail across the Nation.  At a time when we need it most, this program has the potential to create thousands of jobs and improve our national infrastructure.  It is time we stop trying to derail this program and realize this national vision by working with all stakeholders across the country.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.