On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I urge you to vote against the McCain amendment (#3384) when it is offered to the Hurricane Disaster Relief Appropriations Act. This amendment would place arbitrary and ill-advised limits on the relief funding provided to Amtrak in the bill and would severely hamper the carrier’s ability to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy and complete critical mitigation projects that would prevent future damage.
Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor – the busiest passenger rail corridor in the United States – took a direct hit from the storm and suffered severely damaged infrastructure, including the flooding of four out of six tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers for the first time in history. The McCain Amendment would rescind any unspent Amtrak relief funds after two years, and restrict capital improvements and other expenses to those “directly associated” with Hurricane Sandy.
Imposing an arbitrary two year time limit on the completion of recovery projects would threaten Amtrak’s ability to complete complex repairs on the active 100 year old system. Ensuring that the repairs are done properly and succeed in preventing future flood damage will take time, and will likely face delays that are impossible to foresee. If forced to choose the most expedient repair projects or risk losing necessary relief funds, Amtrak could be faced with higher costs, incomplete projects and a patchwork of short term fixes rather than comprehensive repair and prevention work.
Additionally, the language restricting the use of funds to projects “directly associated” with Hurricane Sandy would prevent Amtrak from performing certain mitigating measures that would lessen the impact of future storms on the system. Without these mitigating projects taxpayers may be left with a much higher bill the next time a storm strikes the Northeast Corridor.
The Hurricane Disaster Relief Appropriations Act is critical to helping regions devastated by Hurricane Sandy recover from this historic storm and fortify their transportation systems and related infrastructure. I urge you to support the emergency supplemental appropriations bill and reject the shortsighted McCain amendment.