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House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen to Transportation-Housing Appropriations Subcommittee: "Gateway will be built"

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

 Elaine Chao, Secretary, Department of Transportation

2:00 PM Thursday, April 12, 2018

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the time and for your strong leadership of the Committee, along with your very able Ranking Member, Mr. Price of North Carolina. I also want to welcome Secretary Chao to the Appropriations Committee again.  Madame Secretary, we look forward to your testimony and to hearing your frank and candid views on a wide range of issues.

 

As I say at every meeting, the “power of the purse” lies in this building - it is the Constitutional duty of Congress to make spending decisions on behalf of the people we represent at home.  And, Chairman Diaz-Balart and Mr. Price have spent their increased FY ’18 allocation from the “caps” deal wisely on your behalf from that agreement.

 

Furthermore, Mrs. Lowey and I look forward to rapidly concluding work on the Fiscal ’19 bills with the same oversight and forethought.

 

The Gateway Project is a prime example of an infrastructure investment that will promote greater economic and national security benefits, as it effects twenty or more states who use the East Coast rail system and whose passengers and freight depend on this narrow access point in New York and New Jersey, known as the Gateway, the Trans-Hudson River Tunnels.    

 

Madame Secretary, the benefits – no, the necessity – of this project is clear.  I remain angered by this Administration’s opposition and very calculated indifference.  And this posture from an Administration which claims to be “infrastructure-centric!”  It is totally unacceptable!

 

Some have suggested that partisan considerations - by the White House and some in my own party - are at work here. I should hope not. To me, this is a national priority, above politics, by two states that bore the brunt of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and, more recently, Super Storm Sandy.

 

I remind the Committee that the $900 million Chairman Diaz-Balart put in the House-passed bill last September was available for other eligible, authorized projects around the nation, not just for Gateway!  Sadly, we had an Administration fixated on removing it it entirely during budget negotiations.

 

The Gateway project is vital to the Northeast and it will be completed - sooner or later - despite opposition.

 

After all, the Northeast Rail Corridor is the most heavily used passenger rail line in the entire United States, serving more than 750,000 people every day on more than 2,200 inter-city and commuter trains. 

 

Quite honestly, I worry about the possibility of a catastrophe in one of the tunnels.  So there are potential homeland and national security implications as well – short-term and, to use your own words Madame Secretrary, into perpetuity!

 

Today, God forbid, if one of these tunnels were to fail for any reason, the negative economic and security (transportation) implications would ripple across the East Coast and the nation.

 

I REPEAT: Gateway will be built, if not during your tenure Madame Secretary, then thereafter! And in closing I’m grateful to Chairman Diaz Balart and Mr. Price for providing the needed funds to go forward, admittedly a lesser amount, but none-the-less, a strong start!

 

With that, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the time and yield back.