On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and our 32 affiliated unions, I want to first thank Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves for inviting me to testify before you today. And let me offer my congratulations to the new and returning members of this committee.
Each of you asked to serve on this committee because you recognize the incredible and important role our transportation network plays in creating and sustaining good paying jobs and facilitating the world’s most advanced economy.
And, more often than not, this committee demonstrates to the American people that party affiliations in Washington, D.C. can represent a wealth of good ideas, and not just lines in the sand.
Your willingness to work across those lines, which too often divide us as a country, was evident last year when you passed a long-term reauthorization of our nation’s air transportation programs and when you continued the committee’s tradition of funding our water resources projects. It was also evident three years ago when you passed a five-year reauthorization of our transit, highway, and rail programs.
Chairman Denham, Ranking Member Capuano, and members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Railroad subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify this afternoon on building a 21st century infrastructure for America. By way of background, TTD consists of 32 affiliated unions that represent workers in every mode of transportation in both the public and private sectors. TTD unions specifically represent workers that operate, service and build passenger and freight rail systems including those at Amtrak, commuter rail providers and freight railroads.
With trade liberalization policies taking hold around the world, our government – with appropriate congressional oversight – has the responsibility to ensure U.S. airlines can compete on a level playing field worldwide and to protect and expand middle class aviation jobs. Specifically, the Administration and Congress must carefully manage aviation trade relationships to ensure we avoid the land mines and pit falls of unscrupulous liberalization, protect against outsourcing of critical safety and security work, oppose regulatory overreaches by foreign states, and provide stable and robust financing for our aviation infrastructure and FAA workforce.
The ability of U.S. carriers to operate domestically and compete internationally depends on having a fully functioning and efficient FAA with stable and robust financing for our aviation system and its workforce. We must also do more to ensure that important safety reforms are implemented and current rules are not needlessly reformed or revisited based simply on a broad anti-regulatory agenda.
With trade liberalization policies taking hold around the world, our government – with appropriate congressional oversight – has the responsibility to promote the competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry and protect the interests of its workforce. Specifically, the Administration must understand the land mines and pit falls of unscrupulous liberalization, protect against the outsourcing of critical safety and security work, oppose regulatory overreaches by foreign states, and provide stable and robust financing for our aviation infrastructure and workforce.
Our economic strength is intrinsically linked to the condition of our transportation infrastructure. When channels are too shallow to receive large vessels, or railroads are located miles away from ports, unnecessary delays and congestion cause the flow of commerce to slow and cost our economy billions. As a result, our ability to compete in the international market and meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015 is undermined. Thus, the national discussion about the state of our freight transportation system isn’t just another transportation policy debate; it’s about providing American businesses the infrastructure they need to distribute their products to the rest of the world and ensuring the U.S. remains a dominant force in the global marketplace.
The Committee has had countless hearings and discussions on Amtrak – even a trip to the local McDonald’s was squeezed in before the August recess. These events have been mainly used to demonize Amtrak and its dedicated workforce and to promote controversial privatization proposals that have garnered little support. To quote the great Yogi Berra, today’s hearing is like “déjà vu all over again.” TTD and a number of our rail affiliates have been called to this Committee room time and time again to debate the so-called merits of privatizing Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, outsourcing food and beverage service to companies ill-equipped to take on such responsibilities, or to simply close down routes that don’t make a profit. We have reminded members that no passenger operation in the world can operate without government subsidy and passenger rail service must be a part of our inter-connected multi-modal transportation system.
Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Rahall and members of the Committee, I am pleased to present the views of transportation labor on the topic of today’s hearing – competition for intercity passenger rail in America. This year alone I have appeared twice before this Committee to express our opposition to the privatization and break-up of Amtrak and appreciate the opportunity today to explain why we are strongly opposed to the legislation proposed by Chairman Mica and Subcommittee Chairman Shuster.
Everybody agrees that America desperately needs new investment in its transportation system and infrastructure. In 2009, a report from the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission concluded that our country must invest $172 billion each year simply to maintain its existing transportation infrastructure. The costs to invest in new transport systems like modern transit and high-speed rail will require a major boost in investment.
Amtrak and its employees have a positive story to tell – a story that cannot be ignored as this Committee considers various proposals to advance passenger rail, including measures designed to boost private sector participation. Amtrak ridership is on the rise with growth reported in each of the last 16 months. Annual ridership records were set in seven of the last eight fiscal years. On the Northeast Corridor (NEC), Amtrak is operationally in the black as NEC performance metrics continue to improve. And now that the company has stable senior management with a long-term vision and a Board committed to Amtrak’s growth and expansion, the future of the company is promising – that is, if Congress gives Amtrak and its workforce the chance to succeed.