Mar 30, 2021
Pete Buttigieg, Gov. Ralph Northam Press Conference at Virginia Amtrak Station Transcript March 30
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam held a press conference at an Amtrak station on March 30, 2021. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Good morning. Good morning, everyone. Very quickly, our partners with Amtrak and CSX have asked me to just remind everyone that is here today, that this is an active train station and so we don’t want you to get too close to the yellow lines or to the train tracks.
We also want to just remind you all that we are definitely having a mask requirement, so please make sure you have on your mask and then also please make sure we are adhering to social distancing guidelines today. There is also hand sanitizer stations that are available and hand sanitizer that’s available if you should need it. So thank you.
Let me see again, good morning. On behalf of Governor Northam and his Intergovernmental Affairs Office in Washington, DC, I welcome Secretary Pete Buttigieg and all of the dignitaries to this official ceremony for the Transforming Rail in Virginia. Executing this definitive agreements with Amtrak CXS and Virginia Railways Express.
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing a friend and a colleague, Shannon Valentine. Shannon was appointed Secretary of Transportation by Governor Ralph Northam, January, 2018, and she oversees six billion multi-module transportation system, crossing seven agencies, with more than 10,000 employees. She’s a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates and during which time she led legislative efforts in 2009, to launch the very first Virginia supported Amtrak train in Lynchburg, Virginia. We have certainly come a long way.
speaker 2: (02:04)
Passengers to practice social distance-
speaker 2: (02:07)
Stations onboard the train. We recommend everyone follow CDC guidance to protect all passengers and crew. Do not ride the train if you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your face.
I thought that was very important for us to be able to all here and then closing in my remarks here, Shannon always says that she works with the very best team in government and we work with the very best secretary. As it is with so many transportation projects, Shannon has been at the heart of transforming rail in Virginia.
Please everyone, help me welcome our moderator today, Shannon Secretary Valentine.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (02:54)
Okay, please be seated. Hello everyone. Stacey, thank you. Stacey runs our liaison office here in Washington. She has been integral in planning this event with Amy White, Charles Small from USDOT and Roy Sherman. Just thank you all so much. And from the very beginning, when we first started talking about building a new long bridge, Stacey walked with us side-by-side to legislator’s offices when it was just a dream. So Stacey, thank you for being with us for such a long time.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (03:31)
It’s certainly a privilege for me to be here today with Secretary Buttigieg, Governor Northam, all of our distinguished guests. As President Biden’s Rescue Plan is an historic accomplishment in supporting the American people, from the health and safety of our frontline workers to the delivery of vaccines and critical goods, today also represents an historic accomplishment, not just in transforming the I-95 corridor, but in transforming how passenger, commuter and freight rail, can work together to expand and improve the performance of rail transportation.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (04:11)
From the moment this agreement in principle, the concept was negotiated with CSX and announced in December of 2019, with our partners Amtrak and VRE, we have been working deliberately and sequentially over these past 15 months. The issuance of the final Environmental Impact Statement and Records of Decisions from FRA, the establishment of the Virginia Rail Passenger Rail Authority, the congressional authorization to allow the transfer of national park service land for the construction of a rail bridge was included in the omnibus bill passed by Congress in December of 2020, a small miracle that we truly appreciate. Thank you, Congressman Beyer for your leadership on that.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (04:57)
The issuance of a favorable determination from the Surface Transportation Board, the authorization from the Commonwealth Transportation Board to move forward with these contracts and today, the execution of the definitive agreements with CSX Amtrak and VRE. Through an extraordinary year, often with great uncertainty, there has been steadfast commitment to reaching this destination. This commitment was only strengthened by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, as we prepare for build back better and recognizing the fundamental role transportation plays in the lives of Americans each and every day; promoting access, connecting people to essential work, moving crucial cargo and creating an economy that works for all people, which is why we are honored today to have the United States Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg with us. A man who has lived these values, as a two term mayor in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana, Indiana, and as an officer in the US Navy Reserves for seven years.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (06:09)
Under his leadership as Mayor Pete, which we will always remember you as, a Smart Streets initiative was launched in historically underserved communities, small businesses were supported along often neglected corridors, and millions of dollars of private investment were directed to once abandoned neighborhoods with a focus on infrastructure, clean energy, job creation, and accessible transportation for all.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (06:36)
Please help me welcome Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (06:38)
Thank you, please. Well, thank you so much Secretary Valentine and it’s such a treat to be able to celebrate good news with good weather and in very good company. Governor Northam honored to be with you. Congressman Beyer, delighted to actually be on your home turf and great to be reunited to Amtrak CEO, Bill Flynn. I want to congratulate and acknowledge you, not just for today’s occasion, but the extraordinary work that Amtrak has done in this very challenging season.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (07:20)
And of course, to CSX CEO, Jim Foote. Thank you for your leadership and thank you for everything that has helped bring us to this day and to all who are joining us right now. We are again celebrating good news, an expansion of rail service that will reduce congestion, boost the economy and make life better for people across the Commonwealth of Virginia and contribute to the economy of the region as a whole.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (07:46)
We’re marking a collaboration among federal, state, and private sector partners, to make this type of transformational investment. That is exactly what our country needs more of and exactly what our communities deserve. And so I again want to thank everyone who has helped to make that possible.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (08:03)
Every day at stations like this across America, transportation workers are serving on the front lines of America’s response to this pandemic. They have been delivering vaccines, getting people to essential jobs and getting goods to wherever they need to go. Their service has been extraordinary, but the challenges facing them and facing our entire transportation system, have been daunting. Far too many workers have been worrying not only about their safety, but about the safety of their job, about their next paycheck, and too many passengers have had occasion to worry about how they could get to work.So we are proud to say on behalf of this administration, help is here.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (08:53)
Thanks to the American Rescue Plan that Congressman Beyer, along with Senator Warner and Senator Kaine and so many others voted for, more than $43 billion will go to support our nation’s transportation system, our passengers and our workers. So it’s fitting that we’re gathered here at an Amtrak station to show exactly how the Rescue Plan is going to help.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (09:15)
Now, the Rescue Plan contains $1.7 billion for Amtrak to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID. These funds are providing much needed assistance that will allow Amtrak to return more than 1,000 furloughed employees to work and maintain critical rail service to passengers across the country and it’s already having a positive impact.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (09:37)
After the passage of the Rescue Plan, Amtrak announced the restoration of 12 long distance routes to seven day a week operations, including the Crescent, Palmetto, Silver Star and Silver Meteor routes, right here through Alexandria, Virginia. This means that people will continue to be able to reach the jobs, the services, and the loved ones, waiting on the other side of that train ride. And right here, you can see the King Street Metro Station, just across the way.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (10:04)
So I also want to touch on what the Rescue Plan means to public transit. The Rescue Plan has more than $30 billion in funding for public transit agencies, helping them to avoid layoffs and service cuts. We know that the cuts that these agencies were facing disproportionately harm workers who depend on public transportation, including so many of the workers, we have belatedly come to call essential workers. So this is a matter of equity. It is a matter of doing right by so many of the heroes of the pandemic.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (10:36)
In the Washington metropolitan area alone, $1.4 billion has been set aside under the American Rescue Plan, to provide economic relief to transit operators in the DC area, Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia, including WMATA and other transit operators.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (10:54)
Now, in addition to getting medical professionals to their hospitals, food workers to grocery stores, and everything in between, transit workers across this country have stepped up in remarkable ways during the pandemic, again, in every part of this country. We learned that last week in a rural community of Levelland, Texas, Spartan, which is their local public transit agency, retrofitted their brand new transit facility to be the community’s first mass vaccination site. And in a single day, that vaccine clinic, vaccinated nearly a thousand people.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (11:26)
In Jacksonville, Florida, the Transportation Authority there helped to launch Wellness on Wheels, a mobile vaccine service, ensuring that seniors and underserved communities, had the opportunity to secure those critically needed vaccinations and these are the kinds of efforts that are going to get more support, thanks to the American Rescue Plan.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (11:46)
It also includes dedicated funds to help rural transit agencies, transit service for the elderly and individuals with disabilities and transit on tribal lands. So with the American Rescue Plan, help is here and that’s just the first step. The project we’re celebrating today will help you.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (12:03)
And that’s just the first step. The project we’re celebrating today will help people across the region and the work we’re doing collectively will help people across the country. So we’re going to continue to look to see success stories like this in communities, large and small across the country if we seize the moment that’s upon us, a once in a century alignment of demonstrated need bipartisan interest, public inpatients and I can tell you a very supportive president leading the way, and we can’t wait to work with our partners in States and communities. And of course, in the Senate and the United States Congress to get this done. So with that, I’ll be handing it back over to Secretary Valentine. Congratulations again, and thank you for hosting us.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (12:57)
Thank you so much. We see this as a start of a very long relationship. It’s now my great pleasure to introduce our governor, the leader behind this collaborative initiative we are recognizing today. Prior to his inauguration in January 2018, Governor Northam served as an army doctor, pediatric neurologist, business owner, state Senator, and Lieutenant governor. And throughout, he has demonstrated his commitment to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live. May I present the 73rd governor of our Commonwealth Governor, Ralph Northam.
Ralph Northam: (13:48)
Well, good morning. And what a beautiful morning this is. I don’t know who to give the credit to, but I know that Congressman Beyer has stepped up. So we’re in your hometown. So thank you so much for a beautiful day Congressman. And Secretary Valentine, thank you first of all, for your kind words and your introduction, but more importantly, your leadership, just your advocacy for transportation and infrastructure in Virginia has really put Virginia in a position to be the number one state in this great country of ours in which to do business. So I thank you and your staff as well for all of your wonderful work. Thank you all for being here today. And what is really, as has been mentioned, a very exciting announcement for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Secretary Pete, welcome to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thank you for your comments and thank you for your service to this country. I also want to recognize Congressman Don Beyer [inaudible 00:14:54]. Yes, very popular, not only here in Alexandria, but in all of the Commonwealth and perhaps the greatest Lieutenant governor that ever served this Commonwealth.
Ralph Northam: (15:09)
Don and I always liked to get in a little bit of history when we have the opportunity to say a few words, but he is the 36th Lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Also, a welcome to Bill Flynn, CEO of Amtrak, and also Jim Foote CEO of CSX. This has truly been a team effort. Thanks to all of you. There’s a lot of work, as you all know, that goes on behind the scenes. So I want to recognize our deputy secretary of transportation, Nick Donohue thank you. John Lawson, as well as Jennifer Mitchell with the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Thanks so much for all of your work on this project. And I want to thank them and the lawyers and our Attorney General’s office who have worked very hard on the project that we’re announcing today. I want to thank the city of Alexandria for hosting us and to Alexandria vice mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who is also chair of the Virginia Railway Express. So please give her a round of applause as well.
Ralph Northam: (16:17)
Today we’re celebrating a major milestone in our work to make it easier for people and goods to move around Virginia and up and down our East coast. Together with our partners at Amtrak, CSX and VRE. We are finalizing the agreements needed to move forward with a tremendous project. Our $3.7 billion transforming rail in Virginia initiative. This transformative plan will make travel faster and safer. It will make it easier to move up and down our East coast, and it will connect urban and rural Virginia. Under this new initiative, the Commonwealth will construct a new bridge over the Potomac dedicated to passenger rail, acquire 386 miles of rail right away, and 223 miles of track and invest more than $1 billion in additional rail infrastructure projects over the next decade.
Ralph Northam: (17:27)
This project establishes a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations, which will help both run more smoothly and efficiently. And it creates a vital link in our national rail network by connecting the Northeast and Southeast carters. Now, America, as you all know, is still in many ways a nation of drivers, we tend to like our cars, but all of those cars on the road come with a price. Every year in Virginia vehicle travelers experience 230 million hours of delays, I’ll repeat that. 230 million hours of delays resulting in $6.5 billion in annual congestion costs, but adding more highway lanes, isn’t the answer. A study of I-95 found that adding just one lane in each direction for 50 miles would cost $12.5 billion. It would also take 10 years and by the time it was done the [inaudible 00:18:45] would be just as congested as when we started. So we needed a different solution.
Ralph Northam: (18:52)
Rail can add that additional capacity at a third of the cost. So thanks to this unique partnership with Amtrak, CSX and VRE in the next 10 years, we will do the following. Double the number of Virginia supported Amtrak trains providing hourly service. We will increase VRE service for commuters by 60%, including weekend service. We will lay the foundation for a new high-speed Southeast rail corridor from Petersburg into North Carolina. We will preserve a freight carter between Doswell and Clifton Forge for future east-west passenger service. And we will create the potentially… They’d like it to, you got all kinds of fans here Congressman Beyer I like this. And finally, we’ll create the potential to expand rail service to more parts of our Commonwealth, this is now important, including rail to Christiansburg and Blacksburg in Southwest Virginia. So it will be easier to hop on Amtrak to New York for the weekend. It will be easier to commute, to work using VRE, and it will be easier to take a train from Southwest Virginia to Northern Virginia.
Ralph Northam: (20:22)
We’ll also be increasing capacity and making our rail service more reliable for both passenger and freight. We could not do this without our partners at Amtrak, CSX and VRE, and their commitments to this initiative. CSX has worked with us to develop a path towards separating out passenger and freight operation. For example, with Virginia, building a new passenger only long bridge over the Potomac, we will help ensure that both passenger and freight trains can move faster. VRE has committed $200 million over 10 years to increase its service because we know that many essential jobs are not nine to five, Monday through Friday, the 21st century economy needs a train schedule to match. Amtrak has committed $944 million over the next decade for infrastructure improvements providing for six new state supported trains and serving as Virginia’s inner city passenger rail operator. Rail also helps our environment and our economy.
Ralph Northam: (21:36)
The American Public Transportation Association tells us that rail travel has 83% fewer greenhouse gases than driving and up to 73% fewer than flying. Could you turn the wind down just a little bit Congressman? Every $1 billion invested in rail creates 24,000 highly skilled jobs. And every dollar invested in rail agencies generates $4 in economic benefits. So the transforming rail in Virginia initiative will grow Virginia’s economy by $2 billion annually and improve the mobility of passenger and freight rail. I want to thank the Biden administration and Secretary Buttigieg for the federal government support for rail and other essential infrastructure projects. I also thank the Biden administration and our congressional delegation for the American Recovery Act, which includes critical funding for transit and rail that will help people stay connected to jobs, healthcare and food services.
Ralph Northam: (22:50)
The act also provides support for state and local governments to help address the cost, lost revenues and overall economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I really do appreciate having a federal partner as we worked through the vaccination phase of the pandemic and look forward to rebuilding our economy. As we do that, it will be critical to continue investing in transportation infrastructure. So many other parts of our economy, such as the movement of goods and of people depend on our transportation system. So I look forward to continuing to partner with the Biden administration on infrastructure and other projects. And again, thank you to our partners at CSX, Amtrak, and VRE for their commitment necessary to truly transform rail in Virginia through this initiative. And for finally sending the message all aboard. Thank you all so much.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (23:56)
Now you all know why I’m sitting here.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (24:04)
Congressman Don Beyer, thank you so much of welcoming to Alexandria. And yeah, we’re also fortunate that the chair of VRE is also Vice Mayor of Alexandria, so, so happy to be here. Congressman Beyer, I believe you’re now in your fourth term in Congress representing the eighth district, you are chairman of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, you serve on House Ways and Means, and on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and you chair the Space Subcommittee. You are also co-chair of the New Democratic Coalition’s Climate Change Task Force. And while you have a long distinguished career, including being the best Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, I understand, you sponsored, along with Congressman Wittman and Senators Warner and Kaine, the Long Bridge Act of 2020, which was instrumental in allowing us to move forward with this program, so thank you so much for your leadership.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (25:02)
Thank you, Shannon, very much. Well, sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train. So good morning and I’m thrilled to be here with my Governor, my Vice Mayor, my Secretary of Virginia Transportation and Secretary Pete, a future president of the United States. Secretary Buttigieg is about to preside over the largest infrastructure plan in American history, and who better than a Rhodes scholar, just kidding. Did you know that [Southbend 00:25:42] was once part of Botetourt County, Virginia, which is very cool. Governor Northam has led the most forward-looking Virginia ever with real progress on our original sin of racism and with the abolition of the death penalty. Thank you Governor very, very much. It’s very clear that he was trained for this as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. I was a car dealer for more than 45 years, but I love trains. A fraction of the carbon footprint, more family time, less expensive, more time to read, no traffic jams. I lived in Switzerland once, they’re the number one train riders in the world, they’re also the longest lived people in the world. Those two facts go together. So I want to thank these world leaders, Governor Northam, Secretary Buttigieg, for transforming rail in Virginia. And a special thanks to our President Joe Biden, the most famous train rider in the world. First, the American Rescue Plan, next Building Back Better. One last thought from Edna St. Vincent Millay, “There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take.” Secretary Valentine.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (27:02)
Thank you again. And now for our partners, William J. Flynn, you’ve had such an interesting multimodal career. He was named CEO of Amtrak effective in April of 2020, although I think you started in March, and you were the 12th executive to lead America’s railroad. As I mentioned to you during our very first virtual meeting, I can’t imagine a more challenging or a more important time to take the helm of Amtrak. Because of your commitment to innovation and your bold vision for inner city passenger rail, and the incredible team that you have with President Stephen Gardner, Dennis Newman, Chairman Tony Coscia, you have put in place one of the most remarkable, dedicated groups of people we have ever had the opportunity to work with. Thank you for being here today.
Ralph Northam: (28:06)
Well, thank you very much, Secretary Valentine for those kind words and the kind introduction. And before I start my prepared remarks, I’m going to just pick up on a thought that you shared with us a moment ago. We have a great team of people at Amtrak, almost 18,000 people. Jim Foote, and I were talking about railroad people, Amtrak people, CSX people, and everyone else who does serve, suited up and showed up and couldn’t work virtually, had to report to work every day in the stations, in our trains, in our mechanical shops, working on our track infrastructure. And they did, and just did a great job, and the rail network across our country, passenger and freight performed really spectacularly during this time. And I’m sure you’ll hear from Jim about that.
Ralph Northam: (28:54)
Well, good morning again, Secretary Buttigieg, judge, Governor Northam, Representative Beyer, and other distinguished guests. And I really am excited and delighted to have the opportunity to be here today and talk a little bit about the American Rescue Plan and the future of passenger rail here in Virginia, and indeed really across our nation. And I certainly want to thank, first of all, starting with President Biden, Secretary Buttigieg, all of our supporters in the Department of Transportation, and all of our supporters on both sides of the aisle who helped secure that $1.7 billion in additional funding for Amtrak in the most recent legislation. It’s really critical to our business and to the operations and the services that we provide. A bit of [inaudible 00:29:42]. But this vital funding will certainly benefit our entire network, it will benefit our state and commuter partners, benefit our customers of course and our employees.
Ralph Northam: (29:54)
And as we look forward to the future, our critical partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia is critical. And as you mentioned, Governor, we’re going to be investing close to a billion dollars in the next 10 years to upgrade our infrastructure and expand passenger rail here in Virginia. So please, all of you here and watching, join me in thanking Governor Northam, Secretary Valentine, Virginia Rail Express, Rich Dalton, and the entire Virginia delegation for their leadership in laying out a plan to invest, improve, and expand service. And we really wouldn’t be here today without your forward thinking leadership.
Ralph Northam: (30:36)
Washington DC is a major hub for Amtrak service, and Virginia has strategically built on that proximity to create a significant network of successful service. Six of our 15 long distance trains, has been mentioned already, travel through Virginia. And when those train frequencies are combined with the Virginia state supported Amtrak trains that serve Norfolk, Newport News, Richmond, and Roanoke. There are over 20 daily trains serving the Commonwealth and its citizens.
Ralph Northam: (31:06)
Amtrak has a strong stake in Virginia and our services produce a significant, or contribute to a significant economic impact. And so we greatly value that strategic relationship that we have with the VRE. And the communities that we serve here in Virginia, find that the rail service triggers opportunity that make them more competitive and attractive to new residents, new businesses and new visitors, and enable growth, both here within Virginia and really anywhere our trains travel across our network.
Ralph Northam: (31:40)
Amtrak relies on the freight railroads to host our service to reach over 70% of the communities we serve. And I’d like to recognize CSX’s president and CEO, Jim Foote, really and the entire company for their support and their role in working with Virginia and with Amtrak to enable this expansion of passenger rail service. We really couldn’t do it without them.
Ralph Northam: (32:07)
Amtrak is celebrating our 50th anniversary this year of operations. And our anniversary coming out of the pandemic really does mark a moment of optimism and opportunity as we build for the future. We’re making substantial investments across our networks, such as we’re doing here in Virginia, so that we emerged from the pandemic in a much stronger position. Our goal is to reinvent Amtrak, to become more relevant and more valuable. And so we’re introducing new stations and modernizing our older ones to improve our customer experience. We’re upgrading our fleet with locomotives and we’ll be introducing the new Acela 21 later this year. We’re improving our infrastructure to provide more reliable services, and we have a bold vision for the future. Rail is well suited to serve the changing demographics and traveler preferences here in the United States. Virginia is a model for the nation in recognizing the role passenger rail can play in connecting people and communities. Our state supported routes and new inner city corridors offer greater opportunities to meaningfully address the environmental crisis well, while at the same time enhancing mobility as our population continues to grow. Well, I’m not going to compete. CSX, Jim. But I will finish. It’s probably a hundred car train, so we better finish, right?
Ralph Northam: (33:47)
Well anyway, we’re very proud to be part of this endeavor, continue our partnership with the Department of Transportation, Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Rail Express, and of course CSX. And we look forward to continuing our work together to expand passenger rail and improve customer experience here in Virginia. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (34:20)
Jim Foote, it’s only fitting, I know. I hope I can do as well as you, Mr. Flynn in speaking, but it’s now my great pleasure to introduce the CEO of CSX, Jim Foote. Your entourage is here. With 40 years of diverse railroad experience, Mr. Foot with named CEO of CSX in December of 2017. He has led CSX’s scheduled railroading transformation that has produced record operating and financial results. Mr. Foote, we are here today because of your leadership, guiding principles and a shared commitment to excellence, which is evident in all the people you have surrounded yourself with, executive Vice President Jamie Boychuk, who’s here with us today, Nathan Goldman, Tammy Butler, Randy Marcus, and so many others. I will tell you that Jamie’s willingness to ask for maps in the middle of a meeting, which could have been the shortest in history, sitting around a boardroom table in Jacksonville, Florida, opened the door to creating this unique transformative opportunity. And we thank you, and we thank your entire team. May I present Mr. Jim Foote.
Jim Foote: (35:56)
Thank you, Secretary Valentine. It’s great to be here this morning. Secretary Buttigieg, I bet…
Jim Foote: (36:03)
Secretary Buttigieg, I bet you probably have some big toys that you could one up me on with that out there somewhere fly over or something like that. Governor, I think I could probably beat you with that. Congressman Buyer, Bill Flynn, and other dignitaries, it’s really, really great to be here today to celebrate this really a special day that happened really, really fast in our world. And that’s a testament to your team, your team, and then your team, and then their team is pretty good. Must’ve went well when we’re thanking the lawyers for doing a great job, right? And so the Department of Rail and Public Transportation really, really, really stepped up and Jamie does not walk on water because he’s going to be bugging me for a raise on the way back to Jacksonville. But this is really, really an excellent example of when a private entity like us can cooperate and have a common vision for what’s in the best interests of everyone and collaborate and get together and come up with a solution that is truly, truly, truly beneficial for everyone.
Jim Foote: (37:22)
And so on behalf of the 20,000 CSX employees and the 600 here in Virginia, who as Bill said, got up every morning during the pandemic and came to work, we’re really proud to be part of this. And besides improving the overall transportation system and availability to public transit for everybody in Virginia, things are changing and what we can do for the environment is important. It’s important to everybody. And the more and those cars really with the Amazon boxes in them kind of look like maybe something else. But it’s important that we focus on doing the right thing for everybody and getting more traffic off the highway, onto rail. People out of their cars in public transportation, traffic, it’s moving in a truck onto the rail with a mode of transportation that’s 75% more efficient, 75% fewer greenhouse gases, it’s the right thing for all of us to be focused on and doing, and we’re really, really proud to be part of this. And again, thank you so much for today and we will look forward to doing more things with you wherever we can. Thank you.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (38:55)
Thank you. And now our commuter rail partner, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett Parker. Again, thank you for having us. She is also chair of Virginia Railway Express, a joint project of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Commission to provide safe, cost effective, reliable commuter rail. With her leadership and that of CEO Rich Dalton, who is also with us today and your tremendous boards, VRE is playing an integral role in this unique partnership, expanding commuter rail access across the greater Washington region and creating a platform for our economic future together. With that, I present to you Madam Chair.
Good morning. While I am here as the chair of the operations board of the Virginia Railway Express, I do want to thank you all for coming to Alexandria. It’s an honor to have you here. It’s also an honor to represent the Virginia Railway Express and share with you the ways that federal and state actions are benefiting VRE and the passengers we serve. As Secretary Buttigieg and Governor Northam noted, the American Rescue Plan is a lifeline for public transportation here in the Commonwealth and across the United States. We are grateful to Congress and the administration for recognizing the vital role that public transportation plays during these challenging times. Funds from the American Rescue Plan will allow VRE to continue to serve frontline workers. And as offices reopen, all of those who depend on us to provide a safe and reliable commute. The American Rescue Plan also means that we will not have to give up on our dream of transforming rail here in the Commonwealth.
In the not too distant future traffic on our interstates will be back to pre pandemic levels. While VRE effectively removes one lane of traffic on both I66 and I95, I395 during rush hour, we must do more. The Commonwealth’s ambitious Transforming Rail in Virginia Initiative will phase in additional VRE service over the next decade, including the option for weekend trains as infrastructure improvements come online. Given the burgeoning populations in Northern and central Virginia, these improvements and increased VRE service cannot come too soon. These are exciting times for rail in the Commonwealth. At VRE, we are grateful for the vision and support of our federal and state partners, and we look forward to providing our exceptional service to even greater numbers of commuters in the years ahead. Thank you so much.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (41:32)
Thank you. Madam chair. Stacy Brayboy opened this meeting by saying that I always do say I work with the best team in government. And there were just a few people I’d like to acknowledge who have allowed me to be standing here with you today. The director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Jennifer Mitchell, Deputy Secretary Nick Donohue, Deputy Secretary John Lawson, Michael Westerman, and Joe Yogman, who were not able to be with us today, but we will find another time from the attorney General’s office, Corey Hill, John O’Neill, Kevin Chase, Chuck’s Sputolnick and so many others have given up so much for this to be a destination we’ve been able to reach.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (42:29)
In 2019 at the 10th anniversary of that very first train that was launched in Lynchburg, Virginia, I stated that in 2009 rail reach 49% of Virginians and 53% of jobs. Today, rail reaches 77% of Virginians and 88% of jobs. In other words, not enough. With that, we’re going to have our official signing ceremony and concluding our day’s events. But I thank you all so much for being here and being a part of transforming rail in Virginia. We have the governor, and Mr. Foote, and Mr. Flynn and Rich Dalton, I believe you’re signing. we’re the supporters.
Secretary Pete Buttigieg: (45:09)
Sure. Not sure if it’s my place, especially in the company of the governor delegation, the vice mayor and others, but I just, again want to applaud the cooperation of VRE, CSX, Amtrak, the state of Virginia and everybody who came together to make this possible. And as you’ll see from the president’s announcement tomorrow, while colossal, this is just the beginning of what’s possible for infrastructure in this country. So thanks everybody again for your support and congratulations.
Secretary Shannon Valentine: (45:37)
And to my team, we live to see another day.