T & I Committee Roundtable Update
This week has seen a lot of action in the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee - with both good and bad news for supporters of high speed rail.
On Monday, a roundtable in Chicago focused on the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program, while a roundtable regarding passenger and freight rail policy took place in Springfield, IL on Tuesday. Other recent meetings of the Committee have focused on California and the Northeast Corridor.
The good news is that the Illinois hearings went very well, with a variety of elected and civic leaders coming out in favor of increased federal investment in both freight and passenger rail. The need for 220 mph trains was discussed at the Springfield meeting.
Now the bad news - these forward-looking investments are meeting significant resistance from some backward-looking legislators.
Last Friday, as part of the New York roundtable, Rep. Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the T & I Committee, came out against high-speed rail, calling it "pie-in-the-sky." To make matters worse, he suggested that long-distance trains should not be part of the federal budget. Rep. Denham (R-CA), chair of the Railroad subcommittee, concurred, and even advocated for shifting California's high speed rail money to the Northeast Corridor.
We are happy to report that Sen. Durbin (D-IL) has responded with a very strong open letter, calling for Amtrak and high-speed rail expansion. (You can read the letter here.) We need to get other reps to stand up with him.
Finally, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, the authorization that governs high-speed and intercity passenger rail, expires this fall. We need to ensure that reauthorization of this bill expands the system.
Congress needs to hear our voices loud and clear. Please click here to tell your congressman that you want more trains.
Check out the Railroads Rountable here!