|12:55 PM EDT||
Paul Tonko, D-NY 21st
Mr. TONKO. Madam Chair, we must fund the Army Corps of Engineers to repair damage caused by recent storms and floods and to prepare for future disaster events, there is no question about it. But doing so by cutting long-term investments in high-speed rail makes absolutely no sense, and I rise in strong opposition to this offset. This reckless recision will eliminate thousands of jobs, halt a large number of rail projects across the country, and hurt local and State economies.
The program is critical to our country's competitiveness by putting Americans back to work, revitalizing our construction and manufacturing sectors, boosting the domestic economy, and ending the United States' dependence on foreign oil. And it flies in the face of President Obama's stated goal of connecting 80 percent of America by high-speed rail in the next 25 years.
Should this recision pass in this House, the Capital Region of New York State alone stands to lose three critical projects, thousands of jobs, and millions in investments. Specifically, the bill, as written, would eliminate over $150 million intended for the Empire Corridor Capacity Improvements project, the Empire Corridor South: Albany to Schenectady Second Track project, and the Empire Corridor South: Grade Crossing Improvements project. This would lead to the loss of some 4,223 jobs.
Plain and simple, Madam Chair, we cannot afford these cuts at this time.
Just a few weeks ago, the local chambers of commerce from the capital region of upstate New York flew down to Washington, DC, to meet with Members of Congress to discuss their areas of interest and attention. It turns out that one of their top priorities was high-speed rail. Why is that? It's plain as day. High-speed rail investments create jobs. Jobs are the building block of our recovering economy, and a strong economy leads to a reduced Federal deficit.
Madam Chair, why is it that Europe, Japan, China and other countries can invest in 200-plus-mile-per-hour trains, but when the United States wants to simply lay additional track, upgrade some crossings, and guarantee timely, affordable, relatively average speed trains, we are left out in the cold?
Let's not let shortsighted politics trump our long-term economic viability. These are commonsense investments that have already been committed to, have already increased reliability in our rail system, and have already created jobs. Let's not pull the rug out from the feet of our job creators, not now. We simply cannot afford it. We cannot afford to deny the hope for jobs. We cannot afford to deny the American pioneer spirit.
I would like to thank my colleague, Representative Slaughter from New York, for her tireless advocacy on this issue and for having the vision and determination to make high-speed rail in upstate New York and across this State and country a reality.
I yield back the balance of my time.