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Kaine Renews Mayors' Call for National Rail Policy
Richmond Mayor Urges Senate to Act on High Speed Rail Act

by Kevin McCarty
October 9, 2000

Richmond Mayor Timothy Kaine told a key Senate panel reviewing Amtrak and a pending high-speed rail bill that "rail matters greatly to the nation's cities." He delivered the Conference"s strong endorsement of a bipartisan $10 billion rail investment plan now before the Senate, stating, "America"s mayors strongly support passage of the High Speed Rail Investment Act, S. 1900." Testifying September 20 before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain (AZ), Kaine said, "mayors from all across the nation, and many others, including a growing and more vocal public, believe that our future transportation investment decisions must increasingly emphasize passenger rail. It is an undeniable fact that the voter is becoming more frustrated with their transportation options."

He underscored the transportation expertise of the nation's mayors, who are increasingly urging Congress to increase the national commitment to intercity and local passenger rail systems. "That's because we own and operate many of the nation's airports — and with counties, nearly all of them. With our county partners, we own and operate more than 80% of America"s highways and streets. And, locally or in regional agencies, we own and operate more than 90% of the nation's transit systems — buses, subways, light rail and trolleys," he said.

Kaine explained further "this is why mayors are saying that now is the time to take the next step in national transportation policy and restore balance and vigor to our national system. We believe this can be accomplished by building the third leg of the stool: a national rail system that connects between and within our metropolitan economies."

Citing discussions at the Conference"s Leadership Meeting in Boise, Kaine said, "We have begun to focus on identifying some of the critical elements of a rail policy for the nation as we enter this new century. And, to look at ways this nation can reverse a couple of generations of neglect and inattention to our nation's rail infrastructure, both for passenger and freight needs."

Kaine pointed out "the mayors are examining what is happening throughout the U.S. For example, today, 47 of the 50 largest metropolitan economies are either planning or constructing new rail projects, be it regionwide or more localized systems. These projects are most commonly light rail or commuter rail projects." He also noted "these 50 metro economies account for more than 53 percent of our nation's total economic output."

He discussed the linkage between local rail projects and Amtrak and an expanded high-speed rail network. "Local areas are now committing billions of dollars to local rail projects, which makes us all the more concerned about the vitality and strength of the nation's intercity passenger rail system. These local rail projects, with their local bus and intercity bus connections, will link passengers to a national rail network, and vice versa, to form a more seamless transportation system," he said.

He urged continued support for Amtrak and action on the pending high-speed rail bill. "We see a powerful linkage between a strong Amtrak, a growing national inter-city passenger rail system, and the long-term viability of our local and metropolitan economies. That's why America"s mayors have made "rail system restoration" a top priority, and strongly support the High Speed Rail Investment Act, S. 1900," he said. Kaine joined with Wisconsin Governor and Amtrak Board Member Tommy Thompson and key officials representing the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. General Accounting Office and the Amtrak Reform Council for the hearing.

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