Denham Statement: Hearing on "Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Rail Stakeholders’ Perspectives"
Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA)
October 4, 2017
Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing to gather rail stakeholders’ perspectives on building a 21st century infrastructure.
First let me welcome our distinguished witnesses and thank them for testifying today. We invited you because each of you represents a key stakeholder group involved in our Nation’s rail industry.
Much has been said about an infrastructure package, but today we want to understand from our stakeholders just what such a package should look like and how it could help rebuild and improve our infrastructure.
While we have accomplished quite a lot over the last several years, an infrastructure package gives us an opportunity to build upon these past successes.
As we have done with other major pieces of legislation, we need to be pragmatic and we need all parties’ input in order to deliver a bipartisan plan.
Railroads are an integral part of North America’s infrastructure network and, in turn, our economic competitiveness. From the building of the Nation’s first railroad in 1828 until now, both passenger and freight railroads have played a central role in our Nation’s development.
The U.S. freight system is the best in the world, and passenger rail has been seeing increased ridership.
However, we should not stand pat and, as an infrastructure package is developed, it should address all modes, including rail.
The goal of this hearing will be to gather opinions and reexamine the federal government’s role, as well as discuss what has worked in the past and what needs to be changed.
While we should prioritize our investment and ensure we invest in projects that will increase efficiency, safety, and reliability, policy reforms can also add value by reducing the cost of projects.
Specifically, there is opportunity here to make reforms to cut through red tape and ensure rail projects aren’t unnecessarily left behind due to burdensome processes.
Doing so can help support a strong, efficient railroad industry, to prevent our highways from becoming more congested, so that shippers can get their products to market, and to create good paying American jobs.
Today, we will take the first step by hearing from our stakeholders on how to accomplish these goals as we develop an infrastructure package.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about ways we can continue to improve on existing funding programs, like Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and railroad grant programs.
Stakeholders can provide unique opinions on best ways to improve our infrastructure through enhanced safety, reliability, efficiency; they can discuss expansion opportunities for such programs; and offer ways to leverage investments and promote public-private partnerships.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here and look forward to a fruitful discussion.
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