|12:45 PM EDT||
Louise Slaughter, D-NY 28th
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Chair, I am opposed to the misguided cuts to high-speed rail funding in this bill that [Page: H5034]
will eliminate thousands of jobs, halt a large number of rail projects across the country--and we are way behind every other nation almost, industrialized nations, anyway--and hurt local and State economies. This is the latest in the majority's agenda that can best be described as penny-wise and pound-foolish.
In their Pledge to America, the majority made a promise to the American people. ``We will fight efforts to use a national crisis for political gain,'' they declared. Sadly, that's what they're doing today. Using the tragedy of natural disasters in America's heartland as a political tool to try to eliminate a job creation program, one of the very few we have, is just wrong. Thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic investment are at stake, and yet this fight brought to us today is
little more than an unnecessary ideological battle.
The high-speed and intercity passenger rail program is critical to our country's competitiveness. It puts Americans back to work, revitalizes our construction and manufacturing sectors, boosts the domestic economy, and helps end U.S. dependence on foreign oil. It is both unwise and ineffective to cut important funding from one project in order to pay for disaster relief. We are a Nation that should be able to both build for the future--in fact we must--and provide for our fellow citizens in need
High-speed rail creates jobs. Every $1 billion of high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail construction funding supports 24,000 jobs. High-speed rail creates short-term jobs in construction, long-term jobs in ongoing maintenance and operation, and indirect jobs by providing regions with access to a larger labor pool and driving economic development.
In my home State of New York, the United States Conference of Mayors estimates at least 21,000 new jobs and $1.1 billion in new wages with the construction of high-speed rail along the Empire Corridor from Buffalo to Albany.
High-speed rail also creates the economic corridors of the future. A high-speed rail line in western New York as currently planned would reduce travel time significantly and expand the western New York labor market to 955,562 workers. This would make us the 26th largest metro area in the Nation, and that means new businesses will be drawn to the area as we connect our cities to Montreal, Toronto, New York City and the rest of the eastern seaboard; and for the first time in many areas, we may
even be able to go west.
In New York, high-speed rail will be our next Erie Canal. Nationally, it is rightfully being compared to our national highway system. Both spurred local development and brought millions of jobs to our State and the Nation. At this point in time, we must not let this opportunity slip away.
What's more, rescinding funds for high-speed rail now, after $5.68 billion have already been obligated by the Federal Railroad Administration, will negate the unprecedented work already being done by the FRA and its partners.
FRA, the States, Amtrak, and infrastructure-owning railroads have made significant progress in reaching service outcome agreements to ensure that intended project benefits are realized, while protecting the public's investment and the railroads' operating interests.
The attempt to rescind this money is nothing but an opportunistic attempt to gain politically from a human tragedy. The flooding that has occurred in our Nation's heartland is being used as an excuse to eliminate an investment in our transportation network of the future.
This is morally reprehensible and economically irresponsible.
If we are to be a competitive global economy in the years to come, we must dedicate ourselves to building the infrastructure that we will need to compete. To rescind these funds now after so much progress has been made and at a time when investments in our own infrastructure and our country are so sorely needed is quite simply an act of foolishness.
I yield back the balance of my time.