WASHINGTON, D.C. - At today's Senate Appropriations hearing on the budget request for the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) questioned Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman about the importance of the Gateway Tunnel project for the region and to high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. Lautenberg is the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, which has jurisdiction over passenger rail infrastructure, and is a founding member and Co-Chair of the Congressional High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus.
Watch Senator Lautenberg's exchange with Boardman about the importance of building a new trans-Hudson River tunnel. Boardman said "we're out of capacity in the Northeast Corridor" and that the new tunnel is "critical" to developing high-speed rail there: http://youtu.be/a9vOFPOrvAk
The Gateway Tunnel project would add two new rail tunnels from New Jersey to New York City. These tunnels, which could be completed in 2020, would significantly increase commuter train capacity by allowing NJ Transit to add an additional 13 trains per peak hour into New York City and it would increase the number of Amtrak trains into New York City by eight per hour.
The existing 100-year old rail tunnels into midtown Manhattan are already operating at capacity during rush hour, and ridership is expected to double in the next two decades. Increased traffic and congestion into midtown Manhattan threatens the economy of northern New Jersey and New York City.
The following are Senator Lautenberg's prepared remarks from today's hearing:
"Trains have helped move America's economy forward since the 19th century, when the Transcontinental Railroad was built--an engineering marvel that captured imaginations across the world.
"Almost 150 years later, railroads are still an engine of economic success--but the United States is no longer leading the way. I recently returned from China, which spends heavily on high-speed rail, investing about nine percent of its GDP on infrastructure--more than three times the amount we invest here in the United States. And China's investment is paying off: When I was there, I rode on a train that travels 205 miles per hour. By comparison, our fastest trains travel 150 miles per hour--and that's under optimal conditions over very short distances.
"To remain competitive globally, America must strengthen its high-speed rail network and give more people access to faster trains. This will help spark job creation, as businesses flock to communities served by new train stations, and it will also help boost property values for nearby homeowners.
"In my state, I'm working with Amtrak to build the Gateway Tunnel--an innovative project that will expand high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor. Each weekday, this corridor takes 30,000 cars off our highways and 243 flights out of the skies.
"I commend Amtrak on its success in the Northeast Corridor, which demonstrates that when Americans have access to trains, they'll gladly take them. President Obama recognizes this, and the Administration has made nearly a billion dollar investment in improving high-speed rail in our region. The President's bold vision to build a world-class high-speed rail network will carry America into the future.
"Faster trains give Americans a better alternative to spending their time stuck in traffic on our congested highways and waiting in endless lines at the airport. Unfortunately, some say we can't afford investments in high-speed rail right now--and they're determined to slam the brakes on our progress.
"This short-sighted view ignores great transportation achievements of the past like the George Washington Bridge, which was built during the Great Depression. So I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses about how the U.S. can reclaim its role as the world's leader in rail and get our economy back on track."