Rail caucus: Trains are ‘the new Erie Canal’

by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper

Saying that high-speed rail is the future of American transportation, the lawmaker who formed the Passenger Rail Caucus exhorted Congress to support building more railways.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is our new Erie Canal,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) during a Tuesday news conference at Union Station.

Slaughter, a co-chairwoman of the newly formed caucus, represents an upstate New York district that includes the original Erie Canal.

“We will be working very hard to make sure this gets started,” she said. “It’ll be a great day for the United States of America when we have high-speed rail like every other industrialized nation.”

Slaughter’s enthusiasm was shared by Florida Rep. Corrine Brown (D), whose state’s governor just killed a proposed railway connecting Tampa and Orlando by rejecting $2.4 billion the federal government offered as a means to help build it.

The decision by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to turn down the rail money was “stuck on stupid,” Brown said.

“We had a temporary setback, but we will have high-speed [rail] in Florida,” Brown said, noting that she first began pushing for railways in her state in 1980 under then-Gov. Bob Graham.

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz (D) shared the sentiment as well. Walz said his district includes the famous Mayo Clinic, which he said achieved its notoriety in healthcare in part because patients from Chicago could ride trains over to Rochester, Minn.

“We will never pay off this nation’s debt if we don’t grown our economy and unleash innovation, and high-speed rail is a part of that,” Walz said, directly addressing criticisms from conservatives that the railways are too expensive.

The lone senator in the Rail Caucus, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), said America was falling behind other countries by not building trains.

“There is a global high-speed rail race under way and the United States is still stuck at the station,” Lautenberg said.

Lautenberg has signaled that his state will apply for the rail money Florida did not want. Meanwhile, local municipal officials in Florida are looking at forming a coalition to compete for the money without Scott’s approval.



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