During our nation’s prolonged period of economic challenges, it is my goal and the goal of many of my colleagues to create jobs and stimulate the economy. Investing in infrastructure is one of the most sound policy choices to meet this non-partisan objective. Studies estimate that for every $1 billion in infrastructure spending, 18,000 jobs will be created.

Infrastructure investments not only create jobs, but prepare our country for future global competition. Throughout the world, countries are investing in rails, roads, and air travel. It is important that our country is, at the very least, keeping up with the progress of other nations.

During the past 50 years, the United States has invested nearly $1.3 trillion in our highways and over $484 billion in our aviation infrastructure. In contrast, rail investment has received only $67 billion over the past 31 years. We have directed significantly less funding to rail, despite the fact that some regions could benefit greatly from this investment.

My district, New Jersey’s 13th Congressional district, is located on the Northeast Corridor, and I travel home to my constituents every weekend on Amtrak. The Northeast Corridor stretches from Washington, DC to Boston, MA, and is our nation’s most densely populated transportation corridor. Amtrak, freight, and commuter lines use the tracks along with the Acela Express, which can reach speeds of 150 miles per hour.

However, due to infrastructure barriers such as aging catenary wires, tunnels, and relatively sharp curves, this speed is unattainable for most of the trip. Despite these barriers, Amtrak has been able to capture 69% of the air/rail market share between Washington, DC and New York, NY. This demonstrates the great interest in, and potential of, high speed rail.

With dedicated funding, true high speed rail can become a reality and economic and environmental benefits can be realized. Constructing high speed rail will create new jobs and sustain long-term employment. New rail stations will spur economic development in the surrounding areas and promote livable communities. High speed rail also presents an opportunity to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

High speed rail is an energy efficient mode of transportation that will protect our environment and improve our nation’s health. Through rail, our nation’s carbon footprint will be reduced and this mode of transportation will act as an alternative to congested highways and aviation systems.

Maintaining, and not only building high speed rail, is essential to its success. Finding a source of stable funding is necessary, and at this early stage, we should be open to all ideas. The Obama Administration has already begun efforts to build high speed rail and the most recent proposal to spend $53 billion over the next six years sends a strong, necessary message. The President has challenged us with a goal of giving 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. We should see this challenge as an opportunity to put Americans to work for decades to come.

As a person who came to this country at age eleven not speaking a word of English, I truly believe that it is possible to achieve anything in our great country. We have the building blocks necessary for high speed rail to become a reality.

Now let us work together and rise to the challenge of making true high speed rail a national priority.