Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association Conference this morning. Leader Pelosi highlighted the importance of high-speed rail in job creation and investing in our communities. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you. Thank you, Thomas, for your generous introduction and your great leadership for high-speed rail in America.
“Good morning, everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you this morning. It's a special honor for me to be here with my colleague, Congressman Jim Costa, who, relentlessly, morning, noon and night--in fact, I think he never sleeps--on the subject of high-speed rail in California, which is now equated with high-speed rail in America. He has been relentless, persistent, smart, wholly-focused in his championing this issue in California and in the Congress. I'm really honored to be here with Congressman Jim Costa.
“Thomas, thank you for your leadership, as well as Andy Kunz, President of the High Speed Rail Association. I know that--I'm sorry Rod Diridon isn't here. I've been working with him for decades on transportation issues, and I know that his leadership is important to this issue. I thank Laura Richardson, my colleague Lacy Clay. You're talking about high-speed rail in the middle of America, and you know about high-speed rail in California. You know more about high-speed rail and what it means to us.
“First of all, when Thomas stated [in] his remarks, he said this is historic, or history; he used a word to that affect. And it is historic for a lot of reasons. The most important thing that we will do, it goes right to the roots of our country. When Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States, he tasked his Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin to do an infrastructure project for our country. We expanded with the Louisiana Purchase. Then the Lewis and Clarke expedition… going to see what our country was about and how far we went. And then it followed that if we were going to connect people, promote commerce, grow our economy and our country, that we would have to have an infrastructure--internal improvements, they were called at the time, in order for us to build the Erie Canal and things like that that followed. And so that was part of the beginning of America. And that's our tradition, and that's what we have to continue now. For us not to do that would be as if Thomas Jefferson had said: ‘never mind. We won't build the roads, construct the canals, do the things that are necessary, again, to promote commerce, connect people and unify our country.'
“Unifying our country is important for commerce. Moving by high-speed rail is important for all the reasons that fuel jobs, economic recovery, mobility, moving the people, saving energy, security, climate, clean air, the health of our children is what this is about.
“A couple years ago I had a visit to China, and I told them I just want to focus largely on energy and transportation issues and the rest, and climate. And so, the first person that took me to Shanghai for a trip from the airport…I did pour a cup of tea, not the whole saucer. That was a short [trip]. Then I said: ‘I want to go see the electric cars they have made in the city called Tanjin.' I had no idea where it was. So it was about three hours by car from Beijing. I told Jim about this in the tunnels. And we got--we didn't go by car, we went by high-speed rail. At the end of the trip, the pilot, as they call them, turned around and said: ‘Madam Speaker,' I was Speaker at the time, ‘twenty-nine and a half minutes, Beijing to Tanjin.' And I said: ‘a three hour ride. I couldn't have gone through San Francisco, or Fresno, or any of our districts in half an hour.' Think of how transformative that is to people. They can commute. They can do business. You can live in Tanjin, and go to work in Beijing, or the reverse.
“So it's just--so when I got there to the train station, I was admiring the big infrastructure that was there. And they said to me: ‘we plan to build at least 50 of these in the next three years.' Fifty. And that conquers the problem of the people going in and out. I mean, I say that because our competitors are out there doing these things. They know the value of time. And this is about time. It's about the time that is saved, and it's about time for us to do the job and get it done.
“So, again, it's about our competitiveness, our energy independence, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, cleaning our air and the rest of that, and giving people cheaper options to do. Not to mention what it does to the property value and the commerce along the way, and the jobs that are created immediately. And that's part of Congress's National Jobs Day, we should incur. And to do that, a very important part of that is the ABCs: American-made--we want to be not protectionist, but self-reliant. We call it ‘Make It In America.' As our Whip, Mr. Hoyer, says: ‘when we ‘Make It In America,' American families can ‘Make It In America.' Those jobs are not more made in America then when we're building America's infrastructure. And that's B--American-made, Building America. And C, the community involvement and leadership in all of that, which is so essential. We're told that Lacy Clay communicated with the people over in the Midwest, and Jim has been a leader in getting that in California.
“So we have our challenge. Not to be political, but the Democratic Congress, we've, when we were in the majority, [with] President Obama and Secretary LaHood [made] high-speed rail a key priority. We've dedicated more than $10 billion since 2009, to create jobs and bolster our recovery in terms of high-speed rail. That's why California, I'm proud that they are leading the way, securing the largest portion of the federal funding, turning long journeys across our state into commutes. Connecting communities means job growth, higher land values for local economies, economic development--you know all the things it does--sustainable neighborhoods. It strengthens those neighborhoods and, in doing so, it strengthens our country.
“So moving forward, as we face calls for scaling back our ambitions, we must fight this effort to stop high-speed rail. I am a student of behavior and motivation. I can't possibly understand what the argument could be that we should not make progress, that we should not go forward. I mean, would they have said: ‘don't build the road, the Cumberland Road.' If we had said to President Eisenhower: ‘don't build an interstate highway system,' which was a national security issue to unify America for our national security. Of course, it created jobs on the spot, right away, and promoted commerce. You know all what it did and how essential it was to unifying America. If we had said to him: ‘we can't afford it,' which we couldn't at the time. We couldn't because it was a down time in our economy. That's not an excuse not to do something. In fact, it's a reason to make the investment because it's money well spent.
“So this is a new phenomenon. Transportation's always been bipartisan in our efforts, in our legislation, as we go through. This has always had bipartisan support until now. So it's really important that you're here now, and we hear about the progress you've made in your visits here. But understand how important your coming here [is]. We can maneuver all we want in the Congress, but the outside mobilization, people coming and talking from their experience, and their knowledge of what is at stake, and what we lose if we don't go forward, is essential to any good, important, big thing, having you come. This is literally big.
“So we must do what we can to protect the investment so far as we will. Let's pass a transportation bill that puts a 21st century transit system for the American people. So now a transportation bill that's bandied about is one that Secretary LaHood, a Republican, who has served a mighty leader, Bob Michael, this is a strong Republican. And then when, a very distinguished leader, Michael, left Congress, Ray LaHood took that seat. And now he's [in] the Administration, a Republican who knows these people well, he's worked with them, respects them as friends, has said this was ‘the most partisan transportation endeavor. It is bad for jobs, and it is bad for safety.' I won't get into how bad it is; you've probably heard.
“Anyway, our whole approach to why we're in government and public service is about the American dream, the most enduring theme in our country in any decade you can name. And reigniting that American dream is about building ladders of opportunity for people who work hard, play by the rules and take responsibility. And it's got to be centered around small business and entrepreneurship, and ‘Make It In America' and the rest of that that we work to do. It's just too bad to spend our energy on convincing people that the future is inevitable, it is upon us, and we have to make the right choices as we go forward. So thank you for what you do, U.S. High Speed Rail Association, for helping educate the Congress on what the possibilities are, and the risk if we do not go forward. And let us have the resolve of Jim Costa that is ‘this is going to happen.' It's going to happen in California, and as it does, as we all know, it will be a model for the country. It will be a moment of chauvinism of our wonderful, beautiful Golden State, leading the way. And it will do just what we have here. It will create jobs, boost our economic recovery, increase mobility for people to work, increase the quality of their lives. Because, as I said: it's about time, the time they don't have to spend on the road, the time where they can be about the family's pleasures and their business obligations. And, again, it's about time to get this done.
“So thank you for letting me spend some time with you this morning. Good luck in what you are doing, all your efforts and your work on high-speed rail. Thank you.”