letter to congressional committee chairs
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyU.S. Senate U.S. House
Chair Maria Cantwell Chairman Peter A. DeFazioU.S. Senate U.S. House
Ranking Member Roger Wicker Ranking Member Sam GravesU.S. Senate U.S. House Dear Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, Chair Cantwell, Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Wicker, and Ranking Member Graves: With the new administration, we have a generational opportunity to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and we are grateful for your leadership in ensuring we invest in next generation infrastructure, not just the infrastructure of the past. As negotiations continue to develop around a comprehensive infrastructure package, we write to express our support for the inclusion of dedicated funding to develop international-standard high-speed rail with high-performance connections that feed into a larger network. A federal commitment to these modern and proven transportation systems will dramatically improve our environment, reduce inequity, and help grow cities and sustain vibrant downtowns across the nation.
Reducing emissions from the transportation sector is critical to meeting our nation’s climate goals and cutting our carbon footprint. According to an Environmental Protection Agency report, the transportation sector accounted for 28 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2018, making it the largest contributing sector.
A robust network of high-speed rail corridors with high-performance connections is the best option to dramatically reduce carbon emissions while improving intercity travel. It will be decades before aviation is carbon-free, and electric cars – although vital – will not improve highway speeds. By contrast, electrified high-speed rail will capture a significant portion of demand for travel between 100 and 750 miles with greater efficiency than flying or driving. Notably, the average and median distances of American long-distance travel are 744 and 391 miles, respectively. High-speed rail also dramatically reduces land use: a single high-speed rail line matches the capacity of six highway lanes, 91 airport gates, and two new runways.
As we rebuild coming out of the pandemic, investing in a high-speed rail network with high-performance rail connections will create direct, good-paying union jobs with labor protections, while enabling long-term economic growth across whole megaregions and providing vital access to opportunity for smaller communities. Good-paying jobs provide benefits through construction and engineering, steel production, and manufacturing in the rail sector, but also result in economic development around stations both in major cities and in intermediate communities. High-speed rail also reduces regional disparities—as it did in China by an average of 25%—through increased access to jobs and housing. A high-speed rail line from Chicago to Atlanta is equivalent to Beijing to Shanghai, and would connect the people and economies of intermediate cities like Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, and Chattanooga with two top-ten Gross Metropolitan Product metropolises.
A recent study by Microsoft, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia of the Cascadia Corridor estimated $355 billion in economic benefits from building a 250 mph high-speed rail line, a 10:1 return on investment. Consider an alternative: adding a lane of highway in each direction would cost more than twice as much, the study estimates, and accrue almost no additional economic benefits because travel times would not improve. Likewise, making only modest investments to existing rail service would provide travelers with an attractive alternative to driving, but would not improve overall travel times enough to generate anywhere near this scale of economic benefits. Even countries like Morocco, with roughly half a percent of the U.S. GDP, are building true high-speed rail because the return on investment is so positive.
Properly designed, high-speed trunk lines form the backbone of a broader integrated network. Airport connections to high-speed rail in Europe and Asia are routine, as are higher-speed feeders, and local connections speed travelers at low environmental cost to their destinations. Germany and France, for instance, have prioritized high-speed rail for domestic travel, with connections to airports for international travel. In San Jose, California, high-speed rail will connect to a hub with six rail systems and several bus lines at Diridon Station. Seamless connections such as this boost the ridership and economic efficiency of all the component elements. In addition, a series of high-performance rail lines will ensure that smaller and more historically disadvantaged communities have their own connections into a larger national network of travel and opportunity. As Congress advances legislation to build back better as a nation, we urge you to create a carve-out for dedicated high-speed rail corridor planning and development grants, which will enable investments in high-speed and high-performance rail. In the event that Congress advances the American Jobs Plan through budget reconciliation, we request that you raise the topline funding levels for transportation in the budget resolution above the American Jobs Plan number to include dedicated high-speed rail corridor planning and development funding with high-performance rail connections. This will demonstrate that the federal government is ready to commit as a partner in developing high-speed rail corridors across the United States, connecting communities, enhancing economic development, and protecting our environment.
Thank you for your full and fair consideration of these requests. We stand ready to work with you to deliver an infrastructure package for the American people. Sincerely, CC: Chairman Sanders, United States Senate Committee on the BudgetChairman Yarmuth, United States House Committee on the BudgetRanking Member Graham, United States Senate Committee on the BudgetRanking Member Smith, United States House Committee on the Budget
Signed: Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Rep. Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), Rep. André Carson (D-IN), Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), Rep. Sharice L. Davids (D-KS), Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-IL), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-GA), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Rep. William R. Keating (D-MA), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rep. James R. Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Joseph D. Morelle (D-NY), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Rep. Scott H. Peters (D-CA), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY), Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) In addition to the lawmakers, the letter has been endorsed by the following organizations and individuals: The US High Speed Rail Association (USHSR); the US High Speed Rail Coalition; High Speed Rail Alliance; Former Amtrak Vice President of High-Speed Rail and Immediate Past Chair of the APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee Al Engel; Brightline Trains; SYSTRA USA; Building America’s Future; Emeritus Chair of California High Speed Rail Authority and Past Chair of the American Public Transportation Association Rod Diridon; the American Public Transportation Association; The American Train Dispatchers Association; HJI Group Corp; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, SEIU; Cascadia Rail; Transportation for Massachusetts; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the Sunrise Movement; National Grid; the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way, Teamsters; the Eugene, Ore. Area Chamber of Commerce; Turner Engineering Corporation; the Rail Passengers Association; the Green New Deal Network; The Railway Supply Institute; the Railway Supply Institute; Former Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx; Progressive Democrats of America; Manufacturing Renaissance; California High-Speed Rail; Dikita Enterprise, INC; and former CEO of the LA Metro Phillip Washington.
letter to house Transportation Committee
- Invest $41 billion annually in high-speed and higher-speed rail through grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration over 5 years, with 75% of the funds dedicated to true high-speed rail;
- Prioritize the evaluation of high-speed rail grant applicants based on equity, resilience, sustainability, and economic development potential;
- Ensure all investments in high-speed rail projects that receive Federal funding are subject to existing labor laws, Railway Labor Act, Railroad Retirement rules, and all work falls to existing rail unions;
- Prioritize high-speed rail grants for regions not serviced by the aviation industry or where the government subsidizes aviation routes;
- Create funding flexibility and transit-oriented development incentives for nonfederal partners, including state and local transportation agencies and private partners;
- Develop comprehensive, performance-based safety regulations and standards for high-speed rail to reduce project costs and expedite development.
- Standardize the definition of HSR across applicable statutes and produce federal HSR standards and regulations to ensure alignment of HSR development in the U.S.;
- Increase predictability of funding for projects that require multi-year investments;
- Allow the designation of new corridors, through a strategic, economically rigorous process, in order to foster a growing national HSR network.
We respectfully recommend that you incorporate these provisions into the infrastructure bill the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will mark up later this month. We also agree with Chairman DeFazio that Congress should remain focused on developing a national program and vision for high-speed rail. In order to implement such a vision, we recommend the establishment of a new High-Speed Rail Development Authority (HSRDA) within USDOT to direct and coordinate the national program in partnership with the states. The HSRDA would serve as the rail network’s developer and manager and would be tasked with initiating new high-speed rail projects, conducting route studies, filing for permits, assembling land, hiring contractors and consultants, hiring and managing concessionaires to operate the trains, and maintaining the infrastructure. This includes streamlining the approvals process by allowing simultaneous approvals, shortened timelines, and single agency approvals where possible. Finally, we call on the Transportation Committee to establish a Rail Trust Fund as the vehicle to build out a national high-speed rail network across America. This Fund would be structured like the Highway Trust Fund established in 1956, which fully funded the construction of the Interstate Highway System directly out of the General Fund. The HSRDA should administer the Rail Trust Fund and use the initial $205 Billion in seed funds to launch five high-speed rail projects of national significance. Successful economies demand efficient and effective transportation systems. Highspeed rail has proven effective worldwide. The American High-Speed Rail Act takes a dramatic step forward as an investment in our future transportation needs that will be at the same time a massive jobs-creating engine helping revive and reinvigorate multiple sectors - steel production, manufacturing, and our industrial base - with rippling economic benefits. During this time of crisis, we need to think big again. Sincerely,
-Jim Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters-Dennis Pierce, President, Teamsters Rail Conference-Carlos Aguilar, CEO, Texas Central-Patrick Goddard, CEO, Brightline Trains-Andy Kunz, CEO, U.S. High Speed Rail Association-John Porcari, Former Deputy Transportation Secretary, USDOT -Jim Wunderman, President & CEO, Bay Area Council -Michael Friedberg, Executive Director, Coalition for the Northeast Corridor -Paige Malott, Chair, Cascadia Rail-Bob Yaro, President, North Atlantic Rail Alliance-David Levine, President, American Sustainable Business Council-Jerry Boles, President, Brother of Railroad Signalmen -Mercedes Sierra, CEO, SENER Engineering and Systems, Inc. -Enrico Trapazzo, CEO, FS Italian Railways USA Inc. -Mark Evans, President & CEO, DB Engineering & Consulting USA -Daniel Plaugher, Executive Director, Virginians for High-Speed Rail-Jim Matthews, President & CEO, Rail Passengers Association-Rick Harnish, CEO, High Speed Rail Alliance-Dan Swinney, Founder and Senior Advisor, Manufacturing Renaissance-Alan Minsky, Executive Director, Progressive Democrats of America-Thea Selby, Former Board Member, California High Speed Rail Authority -Brett Hartl, Director of Government Affairs, The Center for Biological Diversity-Danny Noonan, Co-Founder, Breach Collective-Keith Wilson, President, Titan Freight Systems-Rod Diridon, Chair Emeritus, Chair Emeritus, California High Speed Rail Authority Former Chair of the American Public Transportation Association