June 15, 2011

Congressmen unveil new high-speed, intercity rail plan

A dramatic new plan and new direction to bring competition to high-speed and intercity passenger rail service across the country, including the nation's Northeast Corridor, was presented during a national briefing by Committee leaders.

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), and Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), presented their new direction for U.S. passenger rail service to national and state transportation officials and passenger rail stakeholders. The Mica/Shuster initiative is called the "Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act."

"It is time for a new direction. Around the world, other nations and the private sector have successfully competed to develop high-speed and passenger rail service," Mica said. "There is no reason we cannot do the same in our most densely populated and congested region. By giving the private sector the opportunity to bring its resources and expertise to the table, we can lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve high-speed and intercity passenger rail service across the country."

The Mica/Shuster proposal will also give states greater control and authority over their intercity passenger rail services, currently operated by Amtrak. Ridership on state-supported routes has increased significantly over the last 15 years, and incentivizing private sector competition for rail services on these routes will ensure states and taxpayers get the best possible deal and the best possible service, according to the congressmen.

The initiative will also open up other Amtrak long-distance money-losing routes to competition, allowing the private sector the opportunity to bid on any intercity route and potentially improve service.

"It is time to deregulate America's passenger rail system, and give intercity passenger rail the same opportunity for success that the freight rail and commercial truck industry have benefited from" Shuster said. "We must look for more effective and innovative approaches to providing modern and efficient passenger rail service by focusing on projects that make sense, leveraging private sector investment, increasing competition and opening the door to public-private partnerships."

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