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Oral Testimony Before the Senate Commerce Committee

Secretary Anthony Foxx

Oral Testimony Before the Senate Commerce Committee
Washington, DC • May 7, 2014

Remarks as prepared for delivery

To Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Thune, and all the members of the committee, thank you for having me.

At the United States Department of Transportation, safety is by far our most important mission We take this mission seriously, and we appreciate the attention this Committee has and will continue to place on this subject. It’s an important one – especially now.

A week ago – in fact, one week ago this very hour – a train carrying crude oil from Chicago to Virginia derailed not far from downtown Lynchburg. The crash sent oil spilling into the James River, and flames – stories high – ignited on the banks, causing the evacuation of a 20-block area.

We’re very fortunate no one was killed, let alone hurt. (Back in July, an oil train crashed outside Quebec, killing 47. Something like that could easily happen inside our borders, too). 

We are at the dawn of an incredibly promising time for energy in America. Increased production is creating new jobs, more opportunity.  But moving this oil is also creating more risk and greater danger.

And I believe – as I know you do – that if America is going to be a world leader in producing this energy, then we have to be a world leader in safely transporting it, as well. 

So, today, I’ve taken further action to ensure that we are.

Today I’ve released a safety alert, advising shippers and energy companies to no longer use the DOT-111 tank car – and to use a higher standard of car when transporting crude oil. 

This is consistent with my statements four weeks ago before the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee that, for purposes of transporting Bakken crude, the DOT-111 should be retrofitted or replaced.

I have also signed an emergency order. It requires, by law, shippers and energy companies to identify the routes Bakken crude oil is traveling – and to notify the state emergency responders so they can work with communities that are along those routes. That way, local police and fire departments can prepare.

These are just the latest steps we’ve taken. Last week, we submitted a comprehensive rule to the OMB that will address a variety of issues: new tank car standards, speed, proper classification, among others.

The relevance of these announcements to this hearing is this:

 Even these safety measures will be insufficient if we do not prepare our rails, roads and communities by adding another important element: first-rate infrastructure.

Over the next generation, we’re not just going to have to move more energy. We’re going to have to move more EVERYTHING – more people and more goods. By 2050, we’ll have to move almost twice the amount of freight we currently do.

And whether we can do that safely is more of an open question now than it ever has been.  Mostly because we have struggled to maintain transportation funding levels in recent years.

In fact, today, I’ve sent a letter to all the state departments of transportation. It warns them that – if action isn’t taken – the Highway Trust Fund could become insolvent as soon as August. And if that happens, it will be near impossible for communities to keep their infrastructure safe and up-to-code.

This is why we sent the GROW AMERICA Act to the Hill last week. Because if we didn’t – if we don’t invest  in our transportation system right now – it’s easy see a future that is full of even more crumbling roads, bridges, broken track and choke points.

You can actually see this right now. Last month, I was in Nashville where there are four bridges that have reached the end of their useful life. And one has been shut down three times since last summer because concrete keeps crumbling and falling on the roadway below, where drivers drive.

GROW AMERICA could fix a bridge like this, and keep travelers safe.

It would do so not only by making the Highway Trust Fund solvent, but by growing our transportation programs to accommodate our growing needs.

The upshot of this wouldn’t just be a newer, safer transportation system. It would be a transportation system that supports many thousands – if not millions – of new jobs… both jobs in building our infrastructure and jobs in industries that are supported by it – industries like tourism and shipping.

Especially shipping. Because this bill includes the resources we need to strengthen America’s freight network.

It would also modernize how we fund transportation. For example, GROW AMERICA streamlines the approval and permitting process, so projects could be built faster and cheaper – but with the same quality.

We believe there’s room for agreement here – not just on the bipartisan reforms, but on funding too. And we’re particularly encouraged that members of both parties like Chairman Dave Camp and Senator Boxer have expressed their openness to pro-growth business tax-reform as a pay-for.

So I’ll end my remarks there – except to say:

For more than half a century, Congress has consistently recognized that as America grows, so must our investment in transportation.

In almost every case, each new surface reauthorization law has increased investment by 40 percent compared to the last law. And Congress has passed them with broad, bipartisan majorities in both houses.

I see no reason why Congress can’t do it again.  America does not need another crisis.

After all, we all take the same oath – an oath to protect this country and its people.

And that’s what investing in our transportation system does: It creates a sturdier, stronger, safer nation.

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Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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