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Promote High-Speed Rail
America’s rail system is woefully underfunded and neglected compared to other nations. The roots of the decline of American rail date to the period after World War II, when the government chose to focus for purported reasons of national security on building the interstate highway system. Over the following decades passenger rail declined dramatically due to lack of investment in infrastructure, with many commuter lines across America paved over or pulled up for scrap. The U.S. is now the world’s most automobile-dependent nation. There are roughly three cars, trucks, or SUVs for every four Americans. In contrast, the U.S. ranks 19th worldwide in rail miles per person – with most of our remaining rail network used for freight rather than passengers. The highway system is more expensive to maintain, leads to far more pollution, and binds us to oil dependency.
We need to expand our rail system so it can become a feasible transportation option for most working Americans. Simply funding new rail lines and infrastructure is not enough. We must also ensure jobs created from federal funding go to people who work in the U.S. The American companies bidding on stimulus-funded projects must be carefully watched. Most have either foreign manufacturing facilities or joint-ventures that enable them to bid as “U.S.” firms, but can import final products so as to maximize profits. Foreign leaders are already jockeying for their own preferred companies to get a slice of the rail funds in the stimulus. There are preferential, “buy American” provisions, but officials can waive these if they delay the project or increase costs by more than 25 percent. And, it must be recognized that most foreign rail equipment companies only exist due to the rail subsidy policies of their own governments. Complaints about “protectionism” are therefore misguided. More teeth, less loopholes, and a close study of current and future appropriations will be needed to ensure that the maximum number of U.S. workers are eventually employed, which was the stated intent of the stimulus legislation.
Our children and grandchildren deserve to have clean air to breathe and to be able to live a normal life in a healthy environment. This is why we must support a high-speed rail system for our nation.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 72nd UE CONVENTION:
- Calls on Congress to:
- Ensure that stimulus funding appropriated for rail projects is spent as intended;
- Pass legislation that includes adequate funding to improve and expand our national rail system, and impose an equipment standardization mandate on manufacturers;
- Expand subsidies for Amtrak and light rail;
- Fund the improvement of existing rail lines to handle 120 mph trains in the future;
- Legislate better air quality standards, thereby increasing the incentive for Americans to switch to mass transit;