Transportation leaders propose new direction for high-speed rail
House Transportation Committee leaders outlined on May 26 a dramatic change in direction to develop true high-speed passenger rail service in the Northeast Corridor (NEC).
Their proposal would transfer development of the nation’s most congested corridor from Amtrak to private sector competition.
Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced at a Congressional hearing today that they are preparing legislation to significantly speed up development of high-speed rail and reduce high taxpayer subsidization of the project.
“We plan introduce legislation to separate the Northeast Corridor from Amtrak, transfer it to a separate entity, and begin a competitive bidding process that would allow for a public-private partnership to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance high-speed service. Our plan would do so in a dramatically shorter time, in closer to 10 rather than 30 years, and at a fraction of the $117 billion cost proposed by Amtrak, while creating new jobs,” Mica said.
The May 26 hearing revealed that despite the tremendous potential of the corridor, Amtrak’s ridership in the NEC has actually decreased since 1977. In fact, Amtrak had 10.5 million NEC riders in 2010, down from 10.6 million in 1977.
“This is a dismal record and a pitiful statement of Amtrak’s lack of achievement in this incredibly valuable transportation corridor,” Mica said. “Amtrak’s plan to bring high-speed service to the NEC is unacceptable. We can attract private sector resources and expertise and do it in less than half the time.
“If anyone is holding their breath for Congress to approve $117 billion for Amtrak’s 30-year plan, they’re going to turn blue,” Mica added.
The 437-mile Northeast Corridor is the only rail corridor owned, almost in its entirety, by Amtrak. The NEC is one of the most valuable transportation assets in the nation, and its population density and other existing transportation connections make it the most viable location for successful U.S. high-speed rail.
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