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VIDEO: Senator Murray Discusses Oil Trains, GM Recall, US Flight Tracking Capabilities in Light of Missing Jet in Malaysia

Mar 13 2014

Murray: “Whether it is ethanol or crude oil, we need to be more nimble and responsive to our changing transportation system to ensure we have effective standards”



Senator Murray seeks answers on GM’s failure report a safety defect that has been linked to at least 12 deaths

In the wake of the still mysterious disappearance of Malaysia flight MH370, Senator Murray gets update on FAA efforts to modernize domestic flight tracking

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the FY 2015 Budget Request for the Department of Transportation with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Among the topics that Senator Murray discussed are the desperate need for the federal government to reinvest in our crumbling national infrastructure, the impending funding cliff facing the Highway Trust Fund, the recent GM recall of 1.6 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches, and the need to continue to take steps to modernize our air traffic control and tracking system.

Senator Murray also pressed Secretary Foxx on federal efforts to improve the safety of crude oil shipments by rail at a time when many across Washington state have expressed concerns about the volume and impact of those shipments.

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

Oil trains

“Unfortunately, there are times when the Department is not always living up to that expectation, and then finds itself reacting.

“In 2011, the American Association of Railroads petitioned for an improved tank car design to transport hazardous materials like ethanol and crude oil.  This was done after a comprehensive review of design features to improve puncture resistance and the safety of these shipments by rail. 

“It was not until two years later, following the catastrophic accident in Lac-Megantic, that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration finally initiated regulatory action. 

“And, as we know, the regulatory process is not a quick one. 

“From what I understand, the best case estimate to complete the new tank car component of the rule – not the entire rule – is by the first quarter of 2015. 

“Whether it is ethanol or crude oil, we need to be more nimble and responsive to our changing transportation system to ensure we have effective standards for business to follow to keep everyone safe.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement below:

“The Subcommittee will come to order.

“I want to welcome Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is here today – in his first appearance before the subcommittee – to discuss his Department’s budget request and our nation’s transportation policy.  Thank you for being here. 

“Many Americans are still struggling in what remains a tough economy and we need to continue to focus on investments that create jobs and opportunity, as well as make transportation safe and reliable.

“So I look forward to a discussion about how this budget supports our communities and economy and how it tackles our transportation infrastructure deficit fairly and responsibly.

“It was only two months ago that Congress passed legislation to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2014.  That achievement, coming after several years of gridlock, was made possible because members on both sides of the aisle recognized the need for solutions, rather than continued disruption and crisis.

“At the end of last year, I worked with Chairman Ryan to reach a two year bipartisan budget deal. 

“Our budget rolled back some of the automatic, across the board cuts to priorities like education, infrastructure and research. It prevented another government shutdown and restored some certainty and stability to families and communities. And it did this in a balanced way, without relying on spending cuts alone.

“The agreement made it possible for the Appropriations Committee to not only complete its work and send a bill to the President that funds the government for the rest of 2014—but also to get started on our work for fiscal year 2015. 

“The modest increases in the omnibus mean the FAA can replace retiring air traffic controllers, avoiding the sequester-driven furloughs that disrupted air travel a year ago. 

“It means no interruption in transit projects now under construction across the nation – from Texas to my home state of Washington – and to your home town, Mr. Secretary, Charlotte. 

“It also means there will be more safety inspectors overseeing the safe shipment of millions of tons of hazardous materials that move through our cities and towns each year.

“I’m pleased the budget deal restored a degree of stability to the Department’s core functions. However, there is still more to be done. 

“Almost half of the funding available to this subcommittee comes from the Highway Trust Fund, which once again is at risk of insolvency. 

“Beginning this summer, the Fund is expected to face shortfalls that would force the Department to begin slowing payments, putting projects at risk and potentially harming state and local economies. 

“If Congress doesn’t act, within a year, these shortfalls are projected to increase dramatically, making it impossible for state and local governments to maintain the road and transit networks that commuters and businesses depend on.

“That is why I was glad to see the President propose paying for new investments in transportation infrastructure with revenue raised through reforming the bloated and loophole-ridden corporate tax code. 

“House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp included a similar proposal in the Republican tax reform plan he released last week. 

“Now that both Democrats and Republicans have proposed using revenue from the corporate tax code to invest in our transportation system and to make sure the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent so states and communities can continue work on infrastructure projects vital to economic growth, I am hopeful we can work together to get this done in the coming months.

“Because helping to create jobs here at home—rather than letting corporations send them overseas to avoid paying taxes—is good for our budget, good for our economy—and just makes a lot of sense.

“The President’s proposal focuses on prudent investments, beginning with fixing our existing infrastructure. 

“In a nation where one out of nine bridges is rated deficient and transit systems have an estimated maintenance backlog of $86 billion, the emphasis on bringing the infrastructure we currently have into a state of good repair makes good sense. 

“So does the Department’s focus on stronger investment in freight networks that make it cheaper and faster to move goods to market, and improving access to jobs and education to increase opportunities for all Americans. 

“These are priorities that will help our economy, as well as our communities, compete in the global marketplace.

“This subcommittee has long supported investments that tackle the complex transportation needs of our communities through the TIGER program, which I created and first funded in the Recovery Act. 

“Since then, TIGER has awarded $3.6 billion to support innovative, multimodal projects in every state.

“Demand for these funds is intense – applications always exceed the amount of funding available, sometimes by as much as twenty to one. 

“Which is why I appreciate that the President’s proposal would more than double the size of the program, and fund the program through the Highway Trust Fund.

“I know firsthand the kind of difference TIGER has made in my own state. 

“In 2010, a bridge on the main access road to commerce for a community in south Seattle was crumbling and had to be closed.  The local business owners and residents of this community that I spoke with said the bridge – which used to carry as many as 20,000 vehicles a day – was their lifeline.

“In 2010, South Park Bridge won a TIGER grant that provided the critical last piece of financing needed to help rebuild the bridge.  The project created badly needed jobs that helped the entire community weather tough economic times. 

“In May, a new bridge will open, providing a strong foundation that will serve the community for generations to come.

“This is just an example of what can happen when we invest in our communities and in our infrastructure. 

“But even though I am glad that the Department’s budget request includes good investments in our transportation programs, we also need the Department to be a leader for innovation and safety. 

“Unfortunately, there are times when the Department is not always living up to that expectation, and then finds itself reacting.

“In 2011, the American Association of Railroads petitioned for an improved tank car design to transport hazardous materials like ethanol and crude oil.  This was done after a comprehensive review of design features to improve puncture resistance and the safety of these shipments by rail. 

“It was not until two years later, following the catastrophic accident in Lac-Megantic, that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration finally initiated regulatory action. 

“And, as we know, the regulatory process is not a quick one. 

“From what I understand, the best case estimate to complete the new tank car component of the rule – not the entire rule – is by the first quarter of 2015. 

“Whether it is ethanol or crude oil, we need to be more nimble and responsive to our changing transportation system to ensure we have effective standards for business to follow to keep everyone safe.

“We also need the Department of Transportation to be a leader when it comes to supporting aviation. 

“For the past six years, this subcommittee has been making significant investments in NextGen, the Federal Aviation Administration’s effort to modernize our air traffic control system.  

“But I continue to hear concerns that the FAA has not been able to translate these investments into real changes for air transportation.  And it still is not clear when these billions of dollars will mean shorter flights, lower fuel consumption, and lower emissions.

“There is also a lot of interest in the development of Unmanned Aerial Systems, and the Federal Aviation Administration is working on a plan for integrating these systems into our national airspace. 

“According to the FAA, we may see draft regulations on small unmanned systems by the end of this year.  I know that the Department will always put safety first, but I urge you to make progress in this area.

“Mr. Secretary, I know you appreciate these challenges. 

“I look forward to working with you, and hope that you will use your position at the head of this Department to expedite progress on these important issues and on other critical issues developing in transportation.

“I would now like to recognize my partner and Ranking Member, Senator Collins, for any opening remarks she would like to make."