Chairman Lipinski Statement from Hearing on Freight Transportation

Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) delivered the following remarks during today's joint Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing titled "Where's My Stuff? Examining the Economic, Environmental, and Societal Impacts of Freight Transportation."

Good morning.  Today’s joint hearing continues a series of hearings that the Rail Subcommittee has been conducting as we work on the surface transportation reauthorization.  Our subcommittee is playing a significant role in the reauthorization because a rail title will once again be included in this bill as it was in the FAST Act.  I expect this title to not only include Amtrak reauthorization and other passenger rail provisions, but also a robust investment in freight rail infrastructure.  I am a strong proponent of this investment because it will make freight movement faster and more efficient.  This investment would have far-reaching, positive impacts by increasing jobs – many of them good-paying union jobs, making our businesses more competitive, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

I represent part of Chicagoland which is the freight rail hub of North America.  Six Class I railroads intersect in the region and about 25% of all freight trains and 50% of all intermodal trains in the nation pass through.  In addition, Will County, just south of Chicago and partially included in my district, is the largest inland port in North America with major intermodal facilities which cause significant congestion and safety issues on Interstate 80 and surrounding roads.  This year the State of Illinois committed to raising the revenue needed to invest in the nationally-critical I-80 corridor; it’s time for the federal government to step up on this project and others like it across the country and this reauthorization is the time to do it.

As Ms. Aleman mentions in her testimony, the CREATE rail modernization program in Chicagoland, which has been ongoing for about 15 years, is a unique $4.6 billion Public-Private Partnership (PPP) designed to reduce delays for freight and passenger trains and ease congestion on roads crossing rail lines.  Through the years, CREATE has been funded through federal, state, local, and private sources.  I have long been a champion of this program since I was able to earmark money to it as one of 25 Projects of National and Regional Significance Program.  This was how megaprojects were funded in SAFETEA-LU. 

The FAST Act funds for megaprojects come through Infrastructure For Rebuilding America or INFRA, grants, which are specifically for freight movement projects. 

INFRA grants have a $500 million aggregate cap for port, rail, and intermodal projects.  This was a hard fought compromise as the original proposal would have excluded multimodal projects altogether.  That would have been a major mistake because these projects clearly are critical in improving the movement of freight.  In this upcoming reauthorization, the aggregate cap needs to eliminated or greatly raised.  We also need to talk about the structure of the program through which the money for megaprojects is going to be disbursed.  I don’t believe we should continue to hand the money over to this or any presidential administration to make these decisions.  But one thing I hope we all can agree upon is that we need a robust level of funding for megaprojects. 

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing us today and there is an urgent need for bipartisan solutions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the transportation sector is the largest emitter by sector of greenhouse gasses with 29% of the United States greenhouse gasses in 2017 emitted by the transportation sector.  One topic I would like to hear about from our witnesses today is how we can mitigate the impact of freight movement on climate change. 

Finally, we need to permanently authorize the 45G tax credit to give the shortline rail industry the investment certainty they need.  This tax credit has been expired since the end of 2017 and it is time we take care of this issue once and for all.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how we can make the US’s freight network more robust, multi-modal, and climate friendly. Thank you.

Chair Lipinski’s remarks as delivered can be found here.

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