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Lipinski Remarks From Metra BNSF Community Meeting

"Thank you for coming out.  I want to start by wishing you Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.  I am hopeful 2019 will be a better year for everyone. 

"We’re here tonight because 2019 needs to be a better year for all Metra BNSF riders. 

"I don’t take Metra to work every day like many of you do, but I am an occasional rider and I have family members who rely on it every day.  When it’s working well, it’s an incredibly fast and efficient way to get downtown, especially during rush hour.  Last Tuesday, I arrived downtown in less than 30 minutes from Western Springs. 

"This is the type of service public transit riders deserve.

"We all understand that problems can occur, but this year the Metra BNSF line has failed all too often.  There have been repeated delays, cancellations, broken air conditioners, and other problems.

"I’ve told Metra and BNSF that this is unacceptable and the problems must end. 

"I’ve called on the Surface Transportation Board, the federal railroad regulator, to increase its oversight.

"And tonight we have the CEO of Metra and the VP of Passenger Operations for BNSF because I went to the top of both railroads and said that they must come out to hear from riders and to explain what they are doing to fix the problems. 

"The role that BNSF plays here may surprise you.  They operate not only the freight trains on this line they own, but they also operate the Metra service.  I will let these two men explain more of that. 

"As I said, I have asked the Surface Transportation Board to oversee the fixing of issues on this line.  However, the power of this Board is limited.  That is something I would like to change.

"What I have been able to do on the House Transportation Committee is to help bring more federal funding to public transit.  I’m co-chair of the Congressional Public Transit Caucus and a strong advocate for public transportation.  I’m a frequent rider, especially in Washington.  In the last Highway and Transit funding bill, I helped raise the funding for public transit by 20% between 2015 and 2020.  The federal government provides over 85% of the capital funding for Metra which pays for locomotives, passenger cars, and some of the rail infrastructure. 

"Right now I am working on getting a new federal infrastructure bill passed in Congress early next year.  I am helping the new governor’s transition team on transportation and I’m hopeful the state will also step up. 

"But tonight you have the opportunity to hear from Metra and BNSF, and you have the opportunity for these two railroads to hear from you.  I want to thank CEO Derwinski and VP Mitchell for coming out here tonight.  And they both know that I will continue to hold their feet to the fire until we get the service that we deserve."