Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-AR) from today’s hearing entitled, “When Unlimited Potential Meets Limited Resources: The Benefits and Challenges of High-Speed Rail and Emerging Rail Technologies”:
Thank you, Chair Payne, for holding this hearing, and thank you to our witnesses for participating today. Today’s hearing will discuss the state of high-speed rail and other emerging technologies in our U.S. passenger rail networks.
Investments and innovation in our rail infrastructure are essential to building a robust and competitive American transportation system. However, we must ensure that any federal policies and funding are balanced with a realistic analysis of the needs, consumer demand, and best use of taxpayer dollars.
There is no better example of these important factors not being properly considered than the California High-Speed Rail project that was originally proposed to run between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The venture, once estimated to cost $33 billion and be completed in 2020, is now projected to cost over $100 billion, with an estimated completion date still over a decade away.
The project has been plagued by a failure to account for actual costs and work associated with obtaining land to build the track, eminent domain, environmental concerns, and whether low consumer demand will require permanent government subsidies to support the line.
While the California High-Speed Rail project shows the failures of poor planning, there are promising opportunities for the federal government to foster new rail technologies that are fiscally responsible and respond to the needs of consumers.
The federal government should look to leverage successful existing programs that support our rail system, such as funding the CRISI and Section 130 grant programs.
The private sector also plays an important role in growing our rail network, and we will hear from witnesses about those promising efforts.
I look forward to discussing both the challenges and the opportunities of new rail transportation and technology, as well as how Congress can provide robust oversight and safeguard taxpayer dollars that support these projects.
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