Titus Amendment Advocating Increased Funding for Passenger Rail Service Passes the House

Jun 4, 2015
Floor Statements

June 4, 2015

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada’s First District took to the House Floor to offer an amendment calling on Congress to increase investment in passenger rail service. The amendment was adopted by voice vote and included in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY 2016, which is expected to pass the House next week. Below are her remarks on the amendment: 

“I rise today with a simple amendment; it’s one that is meant to shed light on the inadequate investments that are being made in our nation’s passenger rail service. 

“The bill before us appropriates nearly $16 billion for aviation, over $40 billion for our roads, over $10 billion for public transit, but just $1.1 billion for our nation’s passenger rail service. 

“I represent Las Vegas, where we import everything from tourists to lobsters, so we certainly understand the importance of transportation mobility. 

“Many international and domestic travelers alike are shocked to learn when they’re coming to Las Vegas that a major metropolitan city, home to more than 2 million residents and playground and boardroom to over 42 million visitors a year, does not have access to passenger rail service. 

“Visitors from Europe or Asia are accustomed to taking trains from one city to another, and they face a sad reality when traveling to Las Vegas from other Southwestern tourist destinations.

“From Los Angeles, for example, you have to take a seven hour train ride that drops you off in Kingman, Arizona, at 1:30 in the morning; then you have to find the bus station, which is four miles away; get on a bus at 4:00 in the morning; and travel another three hours to Downtown Las Vegas. 

“That’s just crazy.

“The last Amtrak train on the Desert Wind line departed the back of the Plaza Hotel in May of 1997 bound for Los Angeles.

“Well, a lot has changed since the late nineties.

“Over the last 17 years Southern Nevada’s population has grown by a million new residents and 10 million more visitors travel to Southern Nevada annually, putting enormous strain on our area’s highways and the airport, which is among the top ten busiest airports in the country. 

“More than 42,000 vehicles also cross the I-15 border between California and Nevada daily. 

“And if you have traveled along that busy stretch of road, you know the traffic nightmares that you might encounter.

“In fact, I recently spoke with an airline pilot who frequently makes the short flight between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and he remarked that you can’t get lost—all you have to do is follow the red break-lights on I-15 all the way to McCarran Airport.

“We can and we must do better.

“But this isn’t just about Las Vegas. Cities like Phoenix, Arizona; Nashville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Boise, Idaho, do not have passenger rail service either.

“In addition, there is no direct rail service between major metropolitan areas like Dallas and Houston, Atlanta and Orlando, and Kansas City and Oklahoma City.

“So I believe that expanding rail service to unserved communities like Southern Nevada should be a priority, but, unfortunately, this legislation before us does not really get us there. 

“At the end of April, I organized a roundtable back in my District to discuss the need to restore passenger rail service to Las Vegas, and I was really surprised at the level of interest from local stakeholders. 

“We had participants from our state and local transportation authorities, the gaming and hotel industries, the chamber of commerce, labor unions, and economic development organizations, all in agreement that Southern Nevada should have passenger rail service as part of our long-term economic viability plans.

“This type of development is a regional, and should be a national, priority. 

“Now a lot of attention has been paid to the Northeast Corridor, where travelers frequent Amtrak service along the East Coast, but we should not forget that it was the railroad that built the West, and still today, remains a critical piece of our transportation network. 

“China is investing $128 billion in rail in 2015 alone; India $137 billion over the next 5 years, and yet we’re investing only $1.1 billion. 

“So Mr. Chairman, since this amendment really has no monetary impact, I would respectfully ask that you accept it; and it’s my hope that we recognize this mode of transportation that is so tied to our nation’s history, and that we can continue to work together to see that it gets attention and support that it deserves.”