Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s Testifies in Support of CA High Speed Rail before a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing

January 15, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the Chair of the 38-member California Democratic Congressional Delegation, delivered the following testimony today before a hearing on California's High Speed Rail project by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials:  

 

(Remarks as delivered; you can also view video of these remarks by clicking here)

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member Brown, for allowing my colleagues to appear before you today. 

 

As the Chair of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation — the largest and most diverse delegation in the Congress comprised of 38 Members — I'm here to reaffirm our strong support for the California High Speed Rail Project.

That's because as our economy improves, and as our population grows, our transportation infrastructure is falling further behind.  As many of us know, the transportation infrastructure is already in very serious need of upgrading in California.  Our air corridors between San Francisco and Los Angeles, as mentioned by the Ranking Member, are among the busiest in the country.  Our highway congestion is high and we know that the lost time and fuel wasted in traffic costs Californians an estimated $18.7 billion each year.

As we watch our population grow, and the estimate as Ms. Brown has said, we will have 51 million people by 2050.  We know that we will need to have the capacity to move people north and south.  Without the high speed rail project, it's been estimated that we would need to build over 4,000 new highway lane miles, 115 new airport gates and four new runways just to keep up with demand. 

And we know that's just not possible.  Anyone who has been to California understands that this is not a practical solution.  But high speed rail has the potential to transform our state and help meet that need—and in the process of helping the country's largest state economy, boost our country as well. 

The California High Speed Rail project is the largest and most ambitious infrastructure project of our time.  When completed, it is going to be able to provide the transportation that our state needs.  

Now Californians, including folks in my home district of San Jose, are going to see immediate benefits from this project.  It invests $1.5 billion in the Caltrain Modernization Program, which will replace Caltrain's diesel trains with electric trains on the Peninsula Corridor.  According to a recent Economic Impact Report by the Bay Area Council—a premium business group in the Bay Area—the project will create over 9,500 jobs, with over 90% being in the Bay Area. 

 

The Bay Area Council also say that high speed rail will increase our state's bottom line as state and local revenues will see an increase of $71 million during the construction phase.  And we also know from the business group that neighborhoods near Caltrain will also see an increase in property value by as much as $1 billion.

 

As good stewards of the environment, Californians by and large also agree that we must make critical infrastructure investments that connect our communities and reduce carbon emissions, while keeping our economy strong.  Electrifying Caltrain will make its operation quieter and reduce air pollution by 90% and lower energy consumption by 64% because electric trains are less noisy and more cost effective to run.

Now, despite the overwhelming arguments for the need benefits of high speed rail, this project, as we know, has detractors.  In its first days, the project had a rocky start before the current management team was put in place.  And that led some to say the project is too large, others disputed the high speed rail project's business plans and the like. 

 

That's why I joined Chairman Denham in asking the GAO—the independent and non-partisan auditors—to conduct a thorough review of the high speed rail project and its cost estimates, the project's funding plan, and the passenger ridership and revenues forecast.

 

And last spring, the GAO came back with its report and gave the California High Speed Rail Authority high marks for its cost estimates, ridership estimates, and funding plan.  The GAO also made some noteworthy observations, saying that the greatest challenge before California's high speed rail project is not whether it can be done, but whether it will be funded, particularly on the federal level in order to attract much needed private investment. 

 

That certainly continues to haunt the project because investors question whether the federal support will be there in the future.  It's also one of the reasons why the California High Speed Rail Authority's very realistic and responsible business plan is building the project in phases.  However, based on experiences in other countries, and positive ridership estimates by the GAO, it seems likely that the private sector will invest in the project if it is allowed to move forward. 

 

It will take both public and private support at all levels to make high speed rail in California a reality. The people of California, as has been noted, have already voted in support of it, and taxpayer's dollars have already been invested in it, including $3.3 billion in federal grants. 

 

Just this week, Governor Jerry Brown announced his state budget, pledging $250 million in Cap and Trade revenues for high speed rail, while laying out continued funding for the project in following years.  Given the environmental benefits both short-term and long-term, using Cap and Trade funds for this project is very appropriate, and our delegation would like to commend Governor Brown for his leadership on high speed rail. 

 

We know high speed rail can work in America if it is given a chance to succeed.  As the GAO noted in its report, several private consortiums were preparing bids for a high speed rail project in Florida before that state's governor pulled the plug.  And as recently as January 9th, the Washington Post reported that Japan is seriously interested in developing a high speed rail line between Washington [D.C.] and Baltimore [Maryland], even offering to foot half of the projected $8 billion it would cost to build. 

 

You know, our global competitors aren't holding back on their high speed rail infrastructure.  And that's because around the world, high speed rail has been shown to be an effective, popular and profitable mode of transportation.  When it comes to transportation, I believe the United States should be second to none.  It was solid investments in infrastructure that helped make the 20th Century the American Century.  And California's High Speed Rail project can help continue that kind of success for our country in the century to come.

 

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