|12:51 PM EDT||
Jerrold Nadler, D-NY 8th
Mr. NADLER. Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to the rescinding of unobligated high-speed rail funds in the bill that we are considering today.
During the full committee markup of the 2012 Energy and Water appropriations bill, Chairman Frelinghuysen offered an amendment providing $1.028 billion in emergency funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to repair damage caused by recent storms and floods and to prepare for future disaster events. It makes sense to spend money on that; we have always given money for emergencies. But the funding is offset in the chairman's amendment by a recision of all the remaining unobligated high-speed
rail funding that was originally approved in the American Recovery Act.
The language of the amendment would rescind all unobligated high-speed rail funding as opposed to just $1.028 billion to be spent for the emergency. This provision jeopardizes several important projects that are already underway, already in the planning stages, that support good jobs and will make long-overdue improvements to our rail system.
Last May, the Department of Transportation awarded some of these high-speed rail funds for major improvements on the Northeast Corridor, such as $449 million for catenary improvements, which would allow trains to reach 160 miles per hour on certain segments, and $294 million for the Harold Interlocking in Queens, which would reduce delays for Amtrak and on the Long Island Railroad.
I've heard a lot of people complain about the trip times and reliability on the Northeast Corridor and complain that even the Acela is not true high-speed rail, and they're right. But these are the kinds of projects that have to be done to prepare to make significant improvements in the corridor and to prepare the way for true high-speed rail later.
Make no mistake: These are projects that are happening now. This is not money just sitting there waiting for a visionary high-speed rail system to come about. This is money going to real infrastructure investments now that support real jobs now and support real economic development when we need it most.
I share the chairman's desire to provide funding to the Army Corps to repair storm damage, but this is not the way to go about it. This is a perfect example of why we have--or used to have--different rules for emergency spending. If something unexpected happens, massive storms and floods, we should be able to respond without jeopardizing other funding. We always said that emergency funding didn't have to be paid for by offsetting other reductions in worthy programs.
I am very concerned about the underinvestment in transportation and infrastructure that seems to have taken hold on the other side of the aisle. We have always had bipartisan agreement that investing in roads, rails, bridges, highways, tunnels and transit is an essential government function. And historically, it's what made the economy grow. From Henry Clay's American system and the internal improvements and Abraham Lincoln's transcontinental railroad, from the Eerie Canal of DeWitt Clinton,
in more recent times the interstate highway system of Dwight Eisenhower, the economy of the United States was built on these infrastructure developments.
As the Nation is embroiled in negotiations over the debt limit now and how to address the long-term deficit, this is yet another example of the misguided thinking that cutting government spending is somehow the answer to these long-term economic challenges. It is unfathomable that we would pass anything that would eliminate good jobs, and not just the direct transportation and construction jobs but all of the jobs dependent on the connectivity and efficiency of our transportation system.
We need to make the investments necessary to put America on a path toward long-term economic growth. We should be providing a lot more money for high-speed rail, which is one of the connection systems of the future. This bill that we will be considering today takes an extra step backward by revoking funds already allocated--not necessarily obligated, but allocated and [Page: H5035]
announced--for ongoing projects that are moving ahead. I urge my colleagues to fix
Emergency funding is obviously warranted for the floods, but it should not be done by eliminating already allocated funds for high-speed rail in an area where we very much need those improvements on the current transportation system.
I yield back the balance of my time.