Lautenberg vows to fight Mica Amtrak plan

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation said the end of the line for House Republicans' plan to privatize Amtrak rail service in the Northeast would be in the upper chamber.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said the plan unveiled Wednesday by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to end Amtrak's control over the frequently-used railways between Washington and Boston was a non-starter with him.

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"The House proposal would take our nation’s rail system off the tracks," Lautenberg said in a statement released by his office. "The Republican proposal to privatize rail on the Northeast Corridor would increase costs for passengers and make rail travel less reliable.  I will fight in the Senate to stop any plan that threatens Amtrak and commuters on the Northeast Corridor."

Introducing the legislation Wednesday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said privatizing rail service in the northeast would provide trains that could move faster than Amtrak's Acela trains, which he has criticized for not being as fast as foreign high-speed trains.

"People are going to turn blue waiting for Congress to provide that money," he said of Amtrak's plan to get trains up to 220 miles per hour in 30 years at a cost of a $117 billion.
 
"They're also going to turn blue waiting for a high-speed train [from Amtrak]," Mica said.

Amtrak responded to the proposal Wednesday by saying it was designed to gut the national rail service, not improve transportation.

"This is broader than the Northeast at this point," Boardman said on a conference call with reporters. "This is the Privatize Passenger Rail for America Act. The overall impact is this takes Amtrak apart, from an infrastructure standpoint, and replaces it with a government entity."