U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) chaired a Congressional hearing Tuesday to discuss the significance of freight and passenger rail to America’s transportation system and the economy.
According to Denham, the hearing was the “next step” to developing a rail reauthorization bill this Congress.
“Railroads are an integral part of North America’s infrastructure network,” said Denham, who serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. “(Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure) Chairman (Bill) Shuster and I are committed to reauthorizing America’s rail this year, and this hearing will be a productive start to that effort.”
The Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials has jurisdiction over the economic and safety regulation of railroads and the agencies that administer those regulations. The independent agency also has the authority to address national emergencies as they affect the nation’s rail transportation system.
The Subcommittee's authority extends to efforts to increase efficiency and accountability in Amtrak’s operations. Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970 and continues to be the nation’s major provider of intercity passenger rail service.
Aspects of railroad retirement and unemployment systems, as well as rail labor relations, are also under the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee.
This reauthorization bill will be Denham's first, as he took the helm of the subcommittee in January. A new Denham-penned rail reauthorization bill would likely cut funding for California's High Speed Rail development; Denham has long been a critic of the plan.
“Our goal is to reexamine what has worked in the past and what needs to be reformed,” Denham said. “We have to be pragmatic and transparent and are counting on participation from all parties in order to deliver a bipartisan, robust and comprehensive reauthorization to the House floor.”
The Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger also participated in the hearing, and testified to the panel of witnesses that America’s freight rail network is recognized as the best in the world.
Approximately 565 freight railroads in the country operate more than 200,000 miles of privately owned track. Hamberger also discussed the importance of continual investment in infrastructure for freight railroads, safety standards within the railroad industry, and how deregulation plays within the success of U.S. railroads.
“Today’s hearing is a good start to the Subcommittee’s work this year,” said Shuster (R-PA). “The U.S. rail network is intricate, complex, and unique, yet invaluable in its benefits. Railroads, through their skilled and dedicated employees, move people and goods across this country every day, driving each State’s economic growth and helping ensure the Nation’s global competitiveness.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, please visit http://transportation.house.gov/hearing/freight-and-passenger-rail-america%E2%80%99s-transportation-system.