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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 27, 2009 4:00am-4:30am EDT

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the operating cost that are not covered by revenues. the u.s. department of transportation coordinates state efforts and administrators the federal capital fund for corridor development. amtrak is the nation's rail operator. it designs and provides service it designs and provides service on behalf of the states a á@@@
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available for grant funding. a lot of the discussion that has followed has been about speed. but the real issues are trip time and market relevance. and the natural yardstick for comparison is the automobile. so when we talk about improving speeds we need to be thinking about those increases in the context of their effect on trip times. frequency is major component of relevance and we need to make sure we are developing a sufficient number of frequencies to provide travelers with range of choices. there are really three ways to develop passenger train speeds. the best known method is one that a lot of people have in mind when they say high-speed rail. and it's been an order of magnitude the most expensive and time consuming, trains that operate consumely in the 120 to 150 to 220-mile-an-hour range. these projects require a new
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right of way with very high standards of engineering, our dedicated passenger railroads require the most modern equipment, are electrified. they are end point focus services. another is the high-speed service that's developed incrementally on ap existing railroad. to do this track and upgrades -- are upgrading to an existing line. depending on the route this could entail some smoothing out of curve and perhaps grades as well as some improvements to grade crossings and signaling systems. this began on the northeast corridor after 1976 when amtrak gained control of it. and over the years we've gradually raised speeds from -- to 125 and then places to 135 and 150 miles an hour. there is, however, a natural sweet spot at 110 miles an hour that offers some significant advantages. you don't need to close or separate grade crossings. you can operate diesel powered services with existing
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equipment. most importantly, you don't necessarily need a dedicated track or right of way. although in some circumstances they might be desirable. those are fore middable cost advantages and 110-mile-an-hour service allows less trip times that makes it more competitive in certain markets. thirdly, reducing the portions of your journey that trains cover at a very low or very low speeds. goirl is not raw speed but it's rather an economically, reliable and trip time competitive service, bage part of reducing trip time involves finding ways to raise operating speeds at that low he end of the range. we replaced a crossing in chicago's brayden park. trains actually had to come to a stop before getting a signal to proceed at 10 miles an hour. we can now move trains through that interlocking at 40 miles an hour, and this is will take several minutes off the time. i hope the committee will keep
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amtrak and inner city passenger rail in mind as it considers some of the pending legislation we expect to see in the coming months. transportation emissions need to be addressed in any proposed climate change policy solution, and that we believe expanded inner city passenger rail offers significant opportunities to reduce carbon emissions. i want to commend chairman rockefeller and chairman lautenberg. it moves us in a direction of a mode neutral program that uses policy outcomes to guide transportation investments. transportation policy that's focused on outcomes would allow the federal government to focus its limited resources on investments that achieve real benefits. >> thank you. >> thank you >> and mr. eckels, we're pleased to have you with us. i did mention before that the high-speed rail program transportation cooperation that
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you are with is texas facility. and we have had the good fortune to work with senator hutchinson over the years. i must say she was a light at the end of the tunnel on a few -- really tough -- really tough moments that we had. it's a pleasure to work with you. thank you, mr. eckels. please. >> we have enjoyed with working with senator hutchinson on high-speed rail in texas and into our current process. before you -- i want to thank them for their help with me as a party person getting in my testimony today on airplanes and i appreciate their support and assistance. i also want to thank ranking member -- there we go, ranking member thune and all of the senators for being here today and the interest that you have in this project in our state
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and these projects across the country. i believe this it technology will support transportation immobility in the united states, and i know am by no means alone. governor rendell made the good point about high-speed inner city rail to find $185 miles an hour and higher is we think the most important thing to remember is when you talk about high-speed rail is evidence by the examples around the world. projects that actually work that provide real significant potential -- to reduce potential -- reduce the congestion in our crowded skies and highways, reduce carbon emissions, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, stimulate and orchestrate economic development across the country right now. i was not invited here to talk about the preaching to the choir, though, for high-speed rail. you are aware of the benefits and we talked about that today. i was brought here more to discuss how close we are to seeing these benefits and what must be done to ensure we get to where we want to be.
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the president and secretary lahood have made their vision clear. they want world class high-speed rail in this country. to reap the kinds of benefits we are talking about today and senator thune to justify the tremendous investment that has already begun and if increased as recommended by chairman oberstar and ranking member mica and this committee we must set that bar incredibly high. governor rendell has commented that our country is ready for and must have truly efficient passenger travel, trains that are capable of speeds of 185 miles an hour or more. when president kennedy declared this country to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960's he knew that his bold aggressive promise required a new culture, a new mindset and ultimately a new administration of nasa to become a reality. this kind of example is something that i think we had should be mindful of today. don't misunderstood me. i have complete confidence in the united states department of transportation and secretary lahood, his colleagues at the federal railroad administration have -- a team including the
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administration. we have not had a chance to work together. and with karen ray, we had a pleasure of being with her in houston at one of the outreach sessions. they're fully capable of developing the system throughout the nation. in order for america's in the broadest sense of the term moon shot to become a reality we, all of us here, and congress must work in concert with the same bold initiative. we must recognize that the clear view of this administration and congress combined with the mounting public and private sector groups such as the texas high-speed rail and transportation corporation, the california high-speed rail authority, the florida high-speed rail authority working with nafta, with other organizations represent a once in a century opportunity to make real and positive impact on our country's transportation and economic development landscape. let's be certain that we all have our eyes on the same prize, passenger trains traveling at at least 185 miles an hour or more on a new
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dedicated, as mr. boardman talked about, high-speed rail infrastructure. if we have that separate infrastructure, we improve safety, reduce collisions and improve economic benefits to the community. as we look to build this new system, it's important to remember that we are breaking new ground in this nation. it would be wise to provide flexibility in these federal funds to provide for market studies and environmental studies. and all the projects i am involved with at the local level it's primarily been traffic and toll road. we have the only toll road 500 miles. we always build the projects ahead of schedule and under budget. the key is having the right schedule and right budget and doing the studies beforehand so we knew what we would be spending in the end. the market and environmental studies are important if we were to attract private investment as well. in all of the suggestions up until most recently having discussed private investment and public-private partnerships, there are places in the world where high-speed rail is covering its operational costs and making a
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profit for investment. there are places in america, too, where high-speed rail can make sense for private investment and to atrack these investors we must show that the routes are viable and they can cover cost. to encourage private investment we should offer tax-exempt -- additional bonds, additional funding and other financial mechanisms that might be available from the federal level. i also would encourage you as we look to different projects we don't try to put in one formula for the entire country. innovative project delivery systems are important. there are different needs in the northeast corridor, california, illinois, and north carolina. in texas we have a linear airport kind of model where we have -- and, again, senator hutch sinnson -- hutchinson has worked with us, in every part of the country where there is a sea port, all of them are working by cities or counties. if you give local governments an ability to connect our airports, our sea ports, and our transportation metro -- metro transportation systems we
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will for the first time breathe life into a truly viable interconnected mobility system. we are very grateful of the support of the administration's vision for high-speed rail and are encouraged by the size of the financial commitment. we are not working under the assumption that the federal government or any state governments alone are prepared to cover the cost of these projects for our country. i do think the governor gave comments about being able to sustain the systems that we build. but we believe that the cities and counties have a role to play in that and are coming together to try to make that work. we do have a local government corporation in the capacity to bring that coalition together. we helped deliver this project in our state and provide a service that are 340-mile texas t-bone corridor. it would bring 16 million texans living today, connect us along the gulf coast corridor to new orleans and atlanta and to oklahoma city to little rock and up into memphis and ultimately into the midwest.
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we would very much look forward to working with this committee and with f.r.a. and amtrak to make that happen. so thank you very much for having us here and i look forward to questions. >> ms. fleming, we welcome you and ask you to make your remarks now, please. >> mr. chairman, ranking member thune, ranking member hutchinson and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss high-speed inner city passenger rail and the american recovery and reinvestment act. the $8 billion provided by the act for high speed and other inner city passenger rail projects have focused more attention on and generated a great deal of anticipation about the possibility of developing high-speed rail systems in the united states. my testimony has two parts. i will discuss the factors that we have identified that affect the economic viability of
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high-speed rail projects and how f.r.a. strategic plan incorporates these factors. first, while the potential benefits of high-speed rail projects are many, these projects are costly, take years to develop and build and require substantial upfront public investment as well as potentially long-term operating subsidies. determining which, if any, high-speed rail projects may eventually be economically viable will rest on the factors such as ridership potential, cost and public benefits. high-speed rail is more likely to attract riders in densely and highly populated corridors especially whether there is congestion on existing transportation modes. characteristics of the proposed service are also important. as high-speed rail attracts riders where it compares favorably to transportation alternatives in terms of door-to-door trip times, frequency of service, reliability, safety and price. costs largely hinge on the
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availability of rail right of way, corridors. once projects are deemed economically viable ject sponsors face the task of securing the significant upfront investment for construction costs an of sustaining public and political support and stakeholder consensus. we found that in other countries with high-speed rail systems the central government generally funded the majority of upfront costs of high-speed rail lines. the $8 billion in recovery act funds represents a significant increase in federal funds available to develop new or enhanced inner city passenger rail service. this amount, however, represents only a small fraction of the estimated costs for starting or enhancing service on the 11 federally authorized high-speed rail corridors. furthermore, the challenge of sustaining public sector support and stake holder consensus is compounded by long project lead times, the diverse interests of numerous stakeholders and the absence of
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an established framework for coordination and decisionmaking. moving on to my second point, f.r.a.'s strategic plan steampts to address the absence of an institutional framework for estimates in high-speed rail. in our recent report, we discussed the need for clear identification of expected outcomes, ensuring the reliability of ridership and other forecasts to determine the viability of high-speed rail and including high-speed rail with a re-examination of other federal surface transportation programs to clarify federal goals and roles, link funding to needs of performance and reduce moto funding stovepipes. the fmple r.a.'s strategic plan is more than just a plan. first, it doesn't talk about goals, how these investments will achieve them and how the federal government will determine which corridors it should invest in. f.r.a. uses the strategic plan the first step in planning federal involvement. f.r.a. has emphasized that it will involve stakeholders to
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help develop high-speed rail that's under its control. officials told us that it plans to spend recovery act funds in ways that shows success to help keep long-term political support for these projects at the local level. in conclusion, the infusion of up to $8 billion in recovery act funds is only a first step in developing potentially viable high-speed rail projects. the host of seeming and attractable issues, such as through high cost, uncertain ridership and need for broad political support that have hamped hampered development of these projects are still with us, and these issues will need to be resolved to effectively spend recovery act funds. surmounting these challenges will require federal, state and other stakeholder leadership to champion the development of economically viable high-speed rail corridors and the political will to carry them out. if will also require clear, specific policies and delineations of expected outcomes and realistic analysis of ridership cost and other
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factors to drm the viability of projects and their transportation impact. mr. chairman, this concludes my statement. i would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee might have. >> thank you very much ms. fleming. and, now, mr. skancke, we welcome you and invite you to give your testimony. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the tough part about being the caboose is you cover a lot of track that the previous train has covered. keeping in light with all the other -- >> get a little closer, please. >> is that a little better? >> yes. >> good afternoon, chairman lautenberg, ranking member thune, and members of the committee. thank you for allowing me to have the opportunity to testify today. in 2005, i was appointed to the national surface transportation policy and revenue study commission by senate majority leader harry reid. in january of 2008, after two years of meetings, hearings and
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research, our commission recommended to congress a vision for transportation policy and funding in america. a new vision which includes a framework that will reform and hopefully revolutionize the way we do transportation policy and funding for the next 50 years. one of our recommendations was substantive reform of our passenger rail system. over the next half century, the united states is projected to add 150 million new residents. this increase will cause travel to grow at an even greater rate than the population will. we will need to provide new mobile choices which will require a cultural shift for the traveling public. we presented our report to congress in january of 2008. we recommended that the entire country should be connected by passenger rail by the year 2050. the recommendations also defined that the passenger rail corridor should connect population centers within 500 miles of each other. just 11 months later the g.a.o. concluded that the existing
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inner city passenger rail system is in poor financial condition and the current structure does not effectively target federal funds to where they provide the greatest public benefit, such as transportation congestion relief. corridor routes generally less than 500 miles in length have higher ridership, perform better financially and appear to offer greater potential for public benefit. we also recommended to congress that our nation invest in at least $8 billion per year over the next 50 years in passenger rail systems. president obama and senator reid and this congress realesed that that investment in passenger rail is needed now, not over the next 50 years. so $8 billion was put into the stimulus bill to not only create jobs but to kick-start the program to begin a valiant new vision for america's transportation modes. i think this president and senator reid and this congress have a vision for transportation in our nation and is much like that of president eisenhower, which is connecting america.
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the united states's way behind the curve in passenger rail service as we all know. the far east, europe and the middle east have invested billions in passenger rail system for years. our lack of vision and investment is deteriorating our global competitiveness and our quality of life. the nation's new vision should not just focus on existing passenger rail linds but should expand beyond the current corridors. in my opinion, the vision should include a western connection much like the recommendations of our commission. connecting all 22 western state in phases as a system, not as pieces, should be a priority. the first phase of a western connection is currently being considered and under way which is the desert express high-speed rail passenger corridor connecting victorville, california, to las vegas. it will connect that area to palmdale, california. which will go to san francisco to los angeles. this will eventually connect three major western
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metropolitan megaregions. each project meeting the criteria set out by our commission and the g.a.o. for being corridors of being 500 miles or less. this strigs is one that takes leadership and courage to get it done. it can be done and it should be done. i know having grown up in sioux falls, south dakota, it would have been nice too take a trip to minneapolis for a vikings game. but i was at home stuck in a blizzard because we had to travel by car. yes, these systems will be costly to design, fund and construct, but we can do this. this is the united states of america. mr. chairman, i have three policy changes for this committee to consider in the new authorization. first, we must agree upon a bold new vision and make the cultural shift in the h in the way we do transportation. a vision they can invest in and believe in, connecting america much like the eisenhower highway system did. we must do today what our
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parents and our grandparents did for us. invest in a new vision, reform the current program and revolutionize how we do transportation policy and funding. second, we must reduce the time it takes to deliver a rail project in this country. 20 years in new starts is just too long. we need to get our projects delivered in three to five years. this is not environmental streamlining, as some would like to call it. it's process delivery. agencies cannot just sit on projects. we need to -- we do not need to create a oversight office. we just need to get the projects out. we need to not open up the other process. it can be done by doing -- not doing duplicative service it must be performance based and outcome drirch. it will include reliable, ontime performance, congestion mitigation, safety and environmental benefits, improved choice -- improve choices, mobility options for all communities and reduce energy use.
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it needs to have ontime delivery. it needs to be reliable or the public won't use it. albert einstein said we won't be able to -- let's change our patterns of thought so we can solve the problems we created with our current patterns and thauths. mr. chairman, you should be commended for having this hearing today to talk about high-speed passenger rail. your leadership demonstrates the change is -- changes in washington, d.c., and is right here in this committee. passenger rail is the future for moving americans and now is the time to make that investment. we need to restore hope and performance in our transportation system. our fellow citizens are counting on us to get it done. thank you.
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>> i would ask governor rendell a question. and that is president obama made high-speed rail a reality. the president has also proposed . i have to be a little cautious with the climate change money we are working arduously. to say that there are many problems, some of them more severe than others, among them
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for generations to follow, to breathe the air and conduct a healthy life with a climate change. and one of the best things for climate change is i think you said is rail. -- high-speed rail system. -- what we have invested in rail is pitiful in comparison. in terms of more efficient
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operations. but the security needs of the country, in -- to be able to function. in the development of high-speed service receive a dedicated federal funding like our interstate highway system, our aviation system. that is really the first part of the question i ask. >> well, there's a sports writer in philadelphia who writes a column once a month and he entitles it "if i were king of the world" and he would delineate changes in sports. if i were king of the world we would stop messing around. every one of the g-7 nations have created massive infrastructure repair problems. japan, germany, countries a fraction of our size who have spent over $1 trillion one time in a five to 10-year infrastructure program, that's
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what we should be doing as a nation. we should finance it through a capital budget. and we should change the way we score such financing meck anythings. it's the only way we can ever get this done. i mean, we're kidding ourselves. we're doing something to pat ourselves on the back saying, boy, i heard secretary lahood, and i think he's terrific, he said $13 billion is terrific. $13 billion is better than nothing. well, sure it is. but it doesn't get us anywhere down the road. we can't do infrastructure on the cheap. we have to invest what we need to invest and we have to find a way to do it. and we have to find the political courage to find a way to pay for it. i think a capital budget is long overdue. i testified as -- >> i agree. >> i ran a pretty good size company and i can tell you if -- >> no company would ever -- >> cash basis it -- >> you wouldn't finance your capital means out of operating costs and we do.
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we finance building a train or bridge the same way we finance paper clips in the federal government. it's nuts. it's time to change. it's time to change and we better do it soon because infrastructure is a lot like that commercial, you can pay me now and he holds up a can of oil filter, $8.75, or you can pay me later, he points toe dilap dated car. it's not getting cheaper. it's not getting cheaper. >> you and i are very much on the same page. and all we have to do is convince about 85 others here that we're doing the right thing there. ms. fleming, in your march, 2009, report you studied high-speed rail service in france, japan and spain. each of these countries has committed significant government support for its high-speed rail system. is it realistic to expect a high-speed passenger rail
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service to be successful without government contributing toward capital or -- and/or operating expense? >> what we found is there was a real commitment and priority in france, spain and japan. and the majority of upfront construction costs was born by the central government in these countries without the expectation that they would recoup these initial investments. and most of these countries, what they did was they build a initial trunk line in order to show success and then build upon it. the commitment followed with a significant amounts of money, and that model allowed them to begin initial construction relatively quickly than if they didn't have that large investment by the central governments. >> thank you. i'd like to ask you a question, mr. boardman, and hope


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