Lawmakers debate Amtrak privatization plan

Two members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee offered competing opinions on a plan to privatize rail service in the Northeast in Thursday's print edition of The Hill. 

Presently, Amtrak operates the interstate passenger rail service through the Northeast portion of the country, where railways are most popular. But Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said in op-ed Thursday that "the time has come to deregulate America's passenger rail system." 

"By focusing on projects that make sense, leveraging private-sector investment and opening the door to public-private partnerships, we can do more with less and finally take our nation in a new direction," wrote Shuster, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. 

"It's time for passenger rail to enjoy the same success deregulation brought to the freight rail, commercial truck and airline industries," Shuster continued.

But the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee strongly disagreed. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) offered up an opinion piece of his own in Thursday's edition of The Hill, calling the privatization plan advanced by Shuster and other Republicans on the panel "short-sighted."

"On the heels of a historic vote to end Medicare, Republicans are picking up steam in their rush to dismantle another highly popular and successful program," Rahall wrote. "Next stop on the Elimination Express? Amtrak.

"Under the false promise of better service and cost savings, Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will soon unveil a partisan plan to dismantle Amtrak and auction off its assets to the highest bidder," he continued. "Doubling down on this risky bet, they want to hand over the conductor's cap to the same folks who ran the stock market off a cliff."

The full op-eds from both Shuster and Rahall can be found in the Transportation Special Focus in Thursday's print edition of The Hill.