Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DOT Seeks Bidders for DC - NY High-Speed Line

Contained within the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the legislation reauthorization Amtrak, is a provision requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue requests for proposals for "the financing, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of a high-speed intercity passenger rail system operating within a high-speed rail corridor." Yesterday, DOT obeyed the law, issuing an RFP for a new high-speed line between New York and Washington.

Rep. John Mica, the Florida Republican who is the chief advocate of a privately financed line, estimated the cost at $18 billion and $40 billion. He said the trains could be functioning between 2012 and 2020, based on government planning projections. In a press conference at Washington Union Station, Mica said "This is the most exciting development in U.S. passenger rail in years."

Mica and federal officials want to get the New York - Washington trip time down to two hours or less. Amtrak's Acela Express takes close to three hours. It's a worthy goal, but is an entirely new railroad necessary to do that?

The same legislation calls for spending $13 billion over five years to bring the existing Northeast Corridor up to a "state of good repair." Besides the engineering challenges, a new line would have to acquire a 225-mile right-of-way running through some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

Seems to me this is nothing more than a tip of the hat to an outdated ideology.

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