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Advance high-speed rail with Amtrak privatization

Congressman John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently introduced bold and controversial legislation that would privatize high-speed rail development in the Northeast Corridor of the United States. Amtrak opposes Mica’s plan and has its own high-speed rail plan based on the existing system with limited private investment. Instead of privatizing high-speed rail or continuing the current system, the U.S. High Speed Rail Association proposes a public-private partnership plan that would change Amtrak to advance the development of high-speed rail. 

We believe public-private partnerships are the most viable way to finance high-speed rail development in this country given current federal budget constraints and political opposition to massive government funding. This model has been successfully implemented in various forms at the state and local level for infrastructure and real estate development, and has also been implemented internationally for high-speed rail systems in several European nations, including England, France and Spain.

{mosads}Advocates from across the political spectrum agree that the most promising region for high-speed rail development is the densely populated Northeast Corridor. With several of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation concentrated in a relatively small geographical area, this region is ideally suited for high-speed rail to relieve congestion of highways and airports. A public-private partnership for high-speed rail in this region would attract significant private investment to service this huge market and generate substantial revenues and profit.

The U.S. High Speed Rail Association proposes a plan that would split Amtrak into two entities: Amtrak Operations, the national rail operator, and Amtrak Infrastructure, which would own and manage the rail infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak Operations would continue Amtrak’s successful management of national rail operations, including the Northeast Corridor, where yearly passenger ridership is at record levels and profits currently support service in the rest of the country.

Amtrak Infrastructure would be a separate entity that would be able to sell up to 40 percent of its shares to private investors and potential partners. This new investment would be used to upgrade rail infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor to world-class high-speed rail standards, enabling up to 10 times more trains per hour using the corridor. Revenues would be generated from track access charges and renewed economic development at train stations along the corridor. Amtrak Infrastructure would be a profitable entity, reducing the need for an annual federal subsidy and creating a new source of funding for expanded high-speed rail development in the rest of the nation.

We believe our proposal could gain bipartisan support in this Congress, enabling high-speed rail to advance instead of stalling in partisan gridlock. And in the near future, we would realize the many benefits of high-speed trains attaining top speeds of over 200 miles per hour, providing a welcome transportation alternative to crowded highways and airports, creating jobs and economic development and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Washington, D.C.

A surprising quotation

From Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)

I get behind in my reading sometimes, so I just had a chance to read the story in the June 9 Hill about the reelection campaign of Sen. Scott Brown (“Democrats are struggling to defeat GOP incumbent in Blue-State Massachusetts”). Early in the story I am accurately quoted. As I continued to read the story, I was surprised on reading the last paragraphs to read quotes from me that I had no recollection of saying. For example, the last quote is that “the downside for Scott Brown is that his advisors are leaving him to focus on what they see as a more exciting race.” Not only didn’t I say that; I didn’t even know that.

Puzzled, I reread the article and realized the problem. After quoting me early in the article, the Hill then understandably quotes Kevin Franck, identified as a “spokesman for the Massachusetts Democratic Party.” During the course of the article, the editing process left out a “c” so the last quotes that are attributed to “Frank” are accurate, I assume, but they should have been attributed to “Franck.” (Fortunately, my colleague Trent Franks was apparently not relevant to this article, which did help keep the confusion to a minimum.)

Editor’s note: The article referred to by Rep. Frank has been corrected online.

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