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Cardoza testifies before House committee in favor of high-speed rail in state

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Cardoza (D-Merced) testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of California’s ongoing High Speed Rail project. “In both our nation’s and in California’s history, tough times have led to bold and innovative solutions,” Cardoza said in a news release. “The opportunity presented by California High Speed Rail is a continuation of this legacy of visionary leadership.” Congressman Cardoza focused his comments on the economic benefits high speed rail would offer the Central Valley, which has been plagued by high unemployment rates. Congressman Cardoza said, “The people I represent in the San Joaquin Valley are in a dire economic situation. The latest reported unemployment in three of the cities in my District ranges from 15 to 17 percent, nearly twice the national unemployment rate. Crime has increased and jobs are scarce.” He continued, “The economic analysis of this project shows that construction of the initial segment will generate nearly 100,000 jobs. The people I represent desperately need these jobs, the jobs that will be generated as the system becomes operational, and the spin-off of economic activity associated with the project. Furthermore, the San Joaquin Valley desperately needs to be connected to the other major areas of the state in order to realize greater economic, cultural and educational opportunities.” Since much of the concern about the high speed rail project has centered around the cost to taxpayers, Congressman Cardoza noted, “From a practical standpoint, if we don’t construct high speed rail, in order to meet our state’s needs, we would need to construct 2,300 new miles of highway, 115 new airport gates, and 4 new runways -- all at a projected cost of more than $170 billion. While costly, there have been no cost projections for the California High Speed Rail system that have come anywhere close to $170 billion.” In addition, Congressman Cardoza stated that air quality would improve by reducing the number of cars and trucks on the road and it would provide a clear vehicle for economic investment into communities along the rail route. Congressman Cardoza also expressed that in a public meeting recently held by the California High Speed Rail Authority in Merced, more than 90% of those in attendance spoke in favor of the project. Congressman Cardoza concluded his testimony, “The Authority still has a long way to go in the development of the project, but if their handling of the preferred route for the Merced-Fresno segment is any indication, the Authority has the capability of working with local communities to address their concerns.” Read below for his complete testimony, and to see video, click here. Statement of Congressman Dennis Cardoza

Before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

“California’s High-Speed Rail Plan: Skyrocketing Costs & Project Concerns”

Introduction

· Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Rahall and Members of the Committee, I’d like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak about the proposed High Speed Rail system in California.

Background and Challenges

· California and our nation face a number of challenges, both related to the economy and to our quality of life.

· There is incredible congestion on California’s highways and in its airports, costing California’s economy, the 9th largest in the world, over $14.5 billion each year.

· Travel on the interstate system is increasing at a rate five times faster than capacity has been added.

· California, particularly the San Joaquin Valley where my district is located, has some of the worst air quality in the nation. 1 in 6 children in Fresno have asthma, much higher than the national average.

· And exacerbating all of these other problems is the challenge presented by rapid population growth.

· California is projected to add 20 million people by 2050, and the Central Valley is expected to more than double in size.

· Faced with these simple facts, it’s very clear that investments need to be made to improve mobility, air quality and the economy in California.

HSR Opportunities

· In both our nation’s and in California’s history, tough times have led to bold and innovative solutions.

· The opportunity presented by California High Speed Rail is a continuation of this legacy of visionary leadership.

· From a practical standpoint, if we don’t construct high speed rail, in order to meet our state’s needs, we would need to construct:

o 2,300 new miles of highway

o 115 new airport gates

o And 4 new runways

· All at a projected cost of more than $170 billion.

· While costly, there have been no cost projections for the California High Speed Rail system that have come anywhere close to $170 billion.

· And High Speed Rail has a number of secondary benefits including:

o Improving air quality by reducing the number of cars and trucks on the road

o Reducing the amount of farmland taken out of production, compared to massive highway expansion

o And providing a clear vehicle for economic investment into communities along the rail route

Economic Development

· As I mentioned in the beginning of my statement, the people I represent in the San Joaquin Valley are in a dire economic situation.

· The latest reported unemployment in three of the cities in my District ranges from 15 to 17 percent, nearly twice the national unemployment rate.

· Crime has increased and jobs are scarce.The economic analysis of this project shows that construction of the initial segment will generate nearly 100,000 jobs.

· The people I represent desperately need these jobs, the jobs that will be generated as the system becomes operational, and the spin off of economic activity associated with the project

· Furthermore, the San Joaquin Valley desperately needs to be connected to the other major areas of the state in order to realize greater economic, cultural and educational opportunities.

Concerns

· There have been some concerns expressed by Members of this Committee about the development of the California High Speed Rail system and about the Authority’s ability to carry out such an expansive project.

· To be frank, I have shared many of your concerns.

· Specifically, the concerns I had involved transparency in the process and potential impacts of the project on the agricultural communities I serve.

· However, I have seen an improvement in the Authority’s process, outreach and transparency. It is essential that these improvements continue as we move forward.

· I was also concerned with some of the alignments that were under consideration that would have resulted in a significant amount of farmland being lost and in drastic impacts on the agricultural community.

· The Authority ultimately selected the correct alternative, the hybrid A-2 alignment, which had the least impact.

· In the same vein, I urge the Authority to select the alignment along the 152 freeway when designing the “WYE” in the Merced to San Jose segment, so that farmland vital to our nation’s food security can be protected.

Community Support

· As a result of the Authority working side by side with the local communities, there is strong support in my District for bringing High Speed Rail service to Merced and other communities in the Valley.

· The Authority held a public meeting two days ago in the City of Merced to select the preferred route, where hundreds of people were in attendance.

· Over 90% of those in attendance not only spoke in favor of the project, but thanked the Authority for listening to and addressing their concerns.

· The Authority still has a long way to go in the development of the project, but if the the Authority’s handling of the preferred route for the Merced-Fresno segment is any indication, the Authority has the capability of working with local communities to address the local concerns.

· While ultimately all of those concerns may not be addressed, based on the experience of my constituents, the Authority will take a good hard look at all of the alternatives presented and will come to the right solution.

Conclusion

· I’d like to thank you again for the opportunity to speak in support of this project and I look forward to hearing the rest of the testimony.

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