Transcript of HSR Press Conference in DC
Representative Seth Mouton hosted a press conference in front of Washington Union Station with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Teamsters and the US High Speed Rail Association.
We liked the points made by the representatives and senator so much that we transcribed them.
Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA)
I am so excited to be here. With all of you, with Senator Gillibrand, with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. We’re here to talk about high-speed rail.
We have a once in a generation opportunity to invest in infrastructure. We cannot squander that by investing the last generation’s infrastructure. High speed rail, high speed broadband, this is the future and that’s why we are here today.
American’s deserved the same choices of travel that everyone else has.
Why do Chinese get more freedom to travel than we do? They can go by plane, they can go by car, but they can also choose high speed rail. And there is a great example. The biggest high speed rail corridor in the world today is between Beijing and Shanghai. And just to be clear, they’re not going 80 mph, 100 mph or even 150 mph like the trains behind us on the Northeast Corridor. They go up to 250 mph. If they can do it in China, we oughta be able to do it right here at home, in America.
Beijing to Shanghai is the same distance as Chicago to Atlanta. And you know what, if we invested in airports between Chicago and Atlanta, you know you might reduce congestion at O’Hare, it would be good for those cities, but it would do nothing for the cities in between. But high-speed rail between Chicago and Atlanta connects Louisville, Chattanooga, Nashville – all these other cities. We bring America together with high-speed rail.
Let’s talk about New York for a second. Albany is 152 miles from New York City. How fast can you do that on a high-speed train? 36 minutes. That’s transformative.
And guess what guys, Morocco has 1 half percent of our GDP. They’re investing in high-speed rail. So, where’s America? It’s time to show up.
Up in the Pacific Northwest, in the Cascadia Corridor between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland/Eugene, they did a study that showed that if you add one lane of highway in either direction on I-5 it will cost twice as much as building a 250-mph high speed rail system. Think about that trade off, we can pay twice as much for one lane of highway, and guess what folks, we still going to be stuck in traffic. We can all get in electric vehicles; we’re just going to have silent traffic jams. We’re not going to get there any faster. But you build high-speed rail, you connect those cities: $355 billion in economic returns, because you can get faster to where to you need to go, to where you need to work and where you can afford to live.
For too long, our highways have divided our cities. They have gone directly through neighborhoods, usually neighborhoods of color. High speed rail connects communities. It brings people together. It’s the way of the future.
So, that’s why we’re here today. I’m so honored to be here, with all of you, with climate activists, with young people. If you look out at this crowd, this is not people who want their name on a bridge before they die. These are people who want to invest in the future.
So, I am proud to introduce, a woman who needs no introduction, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
Thank you so much and thank you Representative Moulton. Thank you, Senator Gillibrand, for staying and joining us in this incredible effort. And thank you to all of our advocacy groups, Working Families Party, Sunrise DC. We’ve got our Teamsters here.
Because this is part of our overall goal to create millions of union jobs in the United States of America, building climate infrastructure, to bring down our carbon emissions, save our future and improve our quality of life.
That’s what high speed rail is. And I can think of fewer examples of infrastructure to meet our climate goals than high speed rail. Rail is climate infrastructure and as seriously as we take climate is going to show how seriously we are taking high speed rail here in our incoming infrastructure package.
So, here’s the deal. Congress right now is in the midst of negotiating a massive infrastructure package to invest in our country. And the question is “what are we going to invest in?”
And right, now, currently, the way of the state of play, is that over $100 billion more, currently, is being proposed in car and highway infrastructure than rail infrastructure. And we want equity. That’s what we are here to demand.
We said for every buck that we are going to put in a car and a bridge, we want to put a buck into rail. And we want to put a buck into getting people from places like Albany to New York City in 36 minutes. Because, that is exciting, it connects our communities. Its equitable. It’s so much less expensive. And what’s so important is that it’s also just.
I represent the Bronx in New York City. And one of the things we’ve seen, especially if you know if you know about the history of the Bronx, “Bronx is Burning”, is that so many communities were displaced, were polluted on in order for, back in the day, Robert Moses to construct the Cross Bronx Expressway. And this created so much devastation and lack of opportunity that we see it even manifested today in economic injustices.
But, when we build high speed rail, these communities and our communities, from urban communities to rural communities, can be connected to economic opportunity without having to move and pick up their whole lives. Not only does it help people get connected to economic opportunity, but it also helps people in urban areas connect to more rural areas and really appreciate and visit those areas too. So, this will allow those of us who even experience nature injustices, and lack of green space, to be able to go to places like the Catskills or the Poconos in just a matter of minutes or hours.
And that connects our country. It creates understanding. It builds community. And will make America a better place. That’s it.
So that’s what we are here to ask for. What we are here to demand. Every buck for a car, we want a buck in rail. High Speed. The United States. We gotta put our money where mouth is and actually be a global leader in modern infrastructure.
So, with that I want to introduce our wonderful senate partner, Kirsten Gillibrand.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Thank you. Well thank you to Alexandra for her extraordinary leadership and work in our state. I want to thank Seth Moulton for bringing us to together for this wonderful day. I want to thank our partners, all the advocates standing behind us, especially the Teamsters, and the Brotherhood of Locomotives Engineers and Trainmen, the US High Speed Rail Association and for Climate Justice and everyone else who is here today. Thank you for your voice, thank you for your leadership and thank you for being here on a day when we want to talk about the future.
I think both Seth and Alexandria said it right. This is about who we are as a nation and our national competitiveness. Why would we ever cede competitiveness to places like China. Why would we want to look at Europe and say “well, they have that, but we don’t yet.”
It’s outrageous, it absurd. We are the strongest, greatest industry in the world when it comes to ambition, when it comes to entrepreneurism, when it comes to innovation. And we should never be ceding that leadership anywhere in the world.
And we are at the pinnacle of climate of crisis. We have to make decisions today about how we will affect the future of this country. So, when we decide to make an investment in infrastructure, as we are debating today in the Senate and the House, we have to make the investments that help just the next generation, but two and three generations from now. We have to be stewards, of not only the economy, but the environment, of the globe. We have a moral responsibility to make sure the air we breathe is clean, that the water we drink Is clean and that future we have for our children is better than the reality we have today.
So, this is a once in a generation opportunity to make the right investments.
I think Alexandria is quite right “A buck for a buck”. Of course, we should be able to meet tomorrow’s investments with yesterday’s investments.
And we live in a state that is knotted by ill-advised investments at the turn of the century, through World War I through World War II. When Robert Moses decided “I want to make sure I can get the middle class and the upper class to the beautiful places in our state.” But never cared about the working class, never actually thought about how do I make sure that communities of color, low-income communities, the hardest working communities, the backbone of our economy, can also go everywhere in this state.
And so, I live in Albany. I would love to get to New York in 36 minutes. Wouldn’t that be beautiful. And, wouldn’t that be amazing, because what I have to other in Upstate New York is extraordinary for people who live in downstate New York too. We want to share the culture, the richness, the opportunities from every aspect of our state.
Our state’s always had this upstate / downstate divide. And I promise you, kids from the Bronx also deserve to go to camp in the Adirondacks, and kids in the Adirondacks also deserve to get big jobs in New York City.
And so, this the reality of our country and our state. And so, we could not be prouder to stand here together to talk to high-speed rail.
I’ve ridden on a high-speed rail train. It’s shocking what it’s like to ride on a high-speed rail train. I rode it in France. I rode it in Japan. I know what it’s like. It’s like flying. Why do we want other countries around the world to be at the pinnacle of advancement and innovation and not this country?
Again, this is our once in a generation opportunity to do the right thing, to make the right investments. Not just for our children, but our children’s children and our children’s grandchildren.
That is what this rally today is about. That is what the men and women standing here are about. We are in absolute agreement, from economic justice to environmental justice. Creating jobs and having clean air and clean water. You can do both. And anyone who tells you have to choose is wrong. They are either being paid off by special interests or people who want to make money off the fossil fuel industry, or they are just uninformed.
Either way, we will fight and make sure that this is our legacy, and this is our future. God bless you.