FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (#11-07)
April 6, 2011
Contact: Sean Jeans-Gail – 202-408-8362 [mobile: 202-320-2723]
The National Association of Railroad Passengers is asking Congressional leaders to recognize the importance of enabling more Americans to travel by train rather than zeroing out the high-speed rail program and crippling Amtrak’s existing network. This request takes on more urgency when considering the superior energy efficiency of trains, the world energy situation, the growing U.S. population and the desire of Americans for alternatives to congested roads and airports.
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan released a budget plan yesterday that would cut $5.8 trillion from the current baseline over the next 10 years. The fiscal year 2012 budget resolution allocates zero spending on the high-speed rail program. The resolution argues that intercity passenger trains should only be funded only when “they can be established as self-supporting commercial services.” This applies a double standard to trains not required of other forms of transportation.
NARP supports Chairman Ryan’s willingness to engage the difficult questions that the deficit poses. However, in times of diminished resources, money should be spent on projects that will meet multiple national goals and objectives. Doubling down on an strategy of under-investment in passenger trains and transit will just intensify existing problems with congestion, lost economic productivity for businesses, increase the importation of oil, all while exposing our children to more airborne pollution.
While Ryan pointed to “governors across the country… rejecting federally-funded high-speed rail projects”, the Department of Transportation announced Monday that 25 states (including the District of Columbia) have applied for the federal funds Florida rejected—including Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who had previously turned down a high-speed rail grant.
And governors in Washington, Illinois, and North Carolina have recently negotiated final agreements with U.S. DOT and host railroads, allowing track work to proceed just in time to create thousands of jobs for the summer construction season. This will be critical for construction workers and their families, in an industry that has been among one of the most hard-hit by the recession.