Vice Ranking Member Foushee Opening Remarks for T&I Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Hearing on Commuter Rail

Apr 17, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC (April 17, 2024) — Today, Congresswoman Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Vice Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, delivered the following opening remarks at the Subcommittee Hearing titled, Getting to Work: Examining Challenges and Solutions in the Commuter Rail Industry. You can watch the hearing here.

Vice Ranking Member Foushee’s opening statement as prepared for the record is below.

Vice Ranking Member Valerie Foushee 

Opening Statement 

Hearing: Getting to Work: Examining Challenges and Solutions in the Commuter Rail Industry 

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024 at 10:00 AM 

Thank you, Chair Nehls for holding this hearing today.

The Research Triangle expects to add more than a million people by 2050 – and we need to provide good mobility options. I am hopeful that commuter rail can be part of that solution.

On the passenger rail front, I do have two state-supported Amtrak routes in my district – the Carolinian and the Piedmont which carried more than 600,000 people last year.   The Piedmont saw a 36 percent increase in ridership after North Carolina and Amtrak added a fourth daily round trip.

In early December 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a one billion dollar grant to develop a new intercity passenger rail route between Raleigh, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia along the CSX “S-Line” that will connect North Carolina with Virginia, Washington, DC, and other destinations along the Northeast Corridor.

I am proud to see this historic investment which will bolster transportation options for North Carolina’s residents.

I championed this investment long before arriving to Congress, and appreciate the work my predecessor, former Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chair David Price, did to develop this intercity passenger rail route.

This generational investment made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will make historic changes in my district.

I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chair, and with our Committee to ensure that this type of investment continues in the future.

Let me now turn to rail safety. I am hopeful this Committee will focus on this important matter because we have not yet held a hearing on the Norfolk Southern derailment that happened in East Palestine, Ohio, or the thousand or so other derailments that occurred across the country last year.

Last month, Secretary Buttigieg sent a letter to the Class I freight railroad association that expressed concern with the freight railroads’ resistance to improving safety. He highlighted that the Federal Railroad Administration’s statistics do not show safety improving significantly over the past decade.

He encouraged the railroads to join with Congress and regulators to improve safety – rather than continue to fight against proposed safety reforms.

I ask consent to put Secretary Buttigieg’s letter into the record.

There are several legislative proposals that have been introduced in the House that could serve as the basis for us to address rail safety.

Furthermore, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has 190 outstanding rail safety recommendations from prior accidents and incidents. The chair told us this in January and reiterated it again last week during her renomination hearing.

I hope when the NTSB’s final East Palestine report comes out in June that we will be able to quickly turn to this issue.

At the same time the safety regulator is expressing concern, the economic regulator is also raising red flags.

Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chair Martin Oberman stated at a February conference for rail shippers that the freight rail workforce has declined dramatically over the past decade.

While some railroads have re-focused efforts on making capital investments and re-hiring people to make improvements, others continue to cut workers and cut their capital expenditures.

I ask consent to put STB Chair Oberman’s speech into the record.

Freight rail is essential to our nation’s economy.

But over the last 10 years, freight rail movements declined.

If we want to see the environmental and safety benefits of moving freight by rail, it seems nearly impossible to do so if the railroads do not have enough people or are not making enough investments in their infrastructure.

Turning back to commuter rail, we have been discussing in my district introducing commuter rail to Durham since the early 1990s. But we don’t yet have it.

I look forward to learning more about commuter rail services around the country from our witnesses.

I yield back.

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