VARP testifies for Rail Authority Bill
From VARPs On Track newsletter, spring 2009
By VARP board member and president Mike Testerman
On February 4, 2009, VARP president Michael Testerman testified before the Virginia Senates Finance Committee in favor of Sen. Edwards Rail Development Authority bill,
Mike Testerman also testified before the Commonwealth Transportation Board on February 5.
The big debate was whether the bill would burden the Commonwealth with bond indebtedness. Edwards assured the committee that it wouldnt. Kevin Page said that the Rail Advisory Board is working out well and that the Commonwealth Transportation Board should have ultimate authority over rail spending. Bruce Wingo said that a Rail Development Authority would emphasize passenger rail at the expense of the taxpaying freight railroads that would have only two representatives on the Authority board. Twice,
Mike Testermans testimony follows:
Good evening, Secretary Homer and CTB members. I am Michael Testerman and I am president of the Virginia Association of Railway Patrons, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization representing current and would-be users of rail transportation.
Last week I attended a hearing of the
The general consensus of testimony was that the backbone surface transportation systems in the United StatesInterstate Highways and mainline railroadsare each operating at capacity. Moving forward into the
As we move forward, our transportation policies must provide investments that are not incremental, but transformational.
One of the best summaries of this new approach, offering Virginia as an example, was given by Amtrak President Joe Boardman, whom I will excerpt:
Our industry (freight and passenger) is greener than our competitors; we have a smaller carbon footprint. But we could make a major leap forward by extending electrification. Amtrak operates the only intercity electrified corridor in the nation from Boston to Washington, DC through
New YorkCity. That corridor should be extended so that it operates from Miami to Maine for a greener and healthier future for the East Coast of the United States. Electrification should, however, not stop there; we should endeavor to connect our rail network to the electric grid all over our nation. This is not a new idea, but it is one that would go a very long way toward securing our energy future and improving our environment. Railroads do not need to depend on liquid energy when the electric option exists and is available. This cannot be done, however, without a major policy decision by Congress. I would settle for help extending our electrified territory to Richmond within the next five years, and making plans to extend that on to Atlanta or beyond in the next ten years
Programs on this scale are being undertaken elsewhereChina, for instancewhere they are regarded as a vital component of future economic development. I think its time for us to look for the investment opportunity that will do for this century what the canals and the transcontinental railroads did for the nineteenth century, and the highways did for the twentieth.
It is also noteworthy that many of the panelists brought up the example of shifting transportation investments from roads to rail, citing the
If Virginia is going to leverage the efficiencies and economies of investing in rail capacity to stretch our scarce resources, I would invite the CTB, which has ultimate authority for publicly investing in rail, to begin having a formal dialogue with the Rail Advisory Board, including some joint meetings.
Thank you for providing this opportunity for citizen input.