Hutchison: High Speed Rail is Crucial to America’s Transportation Future

June 23, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today made the following statement during a Commerce Committee hearing on the future of high speed rail:

“These are truly exciting times for those of us who have long been advocates of passenger rail, and especially for those of us that have believed that the United States should try to develop high speed rail corridors.  To be successful, high speed corridors must tie into our existing interstate passenger rail system so that Amtrak corridor and long distance trains can serve as feeder systems to support the economic success of high speed rail service, and vice versa.

“Last year, Congress was able to pass the first Amtrak reauthorization bill in 11 years—I was the sponsor of the 1997 law—and was proud to join in cosponsoring last year’s authorization as well.  The recent reauthorization measure made crucial reforms to Amtrak’s operating and business practices and helped promote the long-term viability of passenger rail.  The new law also, for the first time, created Federal passenger rail capital grant programs to help states construct and improve passenger rail corridors.  This will help put passenger rail on equal footing with other modes of transportation that benefit from federal financial assistance.

“We all recognize that high speed rail necessitates enormous resource commitments, such as right-of-way, infrastructure, equipment, and labor.  Any project’s success will also require strong partnerships among federal, state, and local governments, host railroads in many cases, and other stakeholders.   The economic stimulus bill provided $8 billion to jump start high speed rail projects around the country, and I am pleased the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has started working with the states, conducting 7 regional meetings to get stakeholder input on how to best establish the parameters of the federal high speed rail program.  It is time to look beyond the Northeast Corridor.

“I am very interested in hearing from today’s witnesses, and want to particularly welcome the new FRA Administrator, Joe Szabo, who is testifying for the first time before this committee in his new position.  I am also very pleased that Judge Robert Eckles could join us today on behalf of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation.  He is going to help everyone understand that high speed rail is not just for the East and West Coasts, but it also makes sense in places like Texas.

“An efficient national passenger rail system is a crucial element of the American transportation system.” 

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