Friday, May 27, 2011

Corridor to Private Enterprise - Mica

Rep John Mica (R-FL7), who again holds the chairmanship of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has dusted off the Bush administration proposal to separate the NECorridor from the rest of Amtrak - and of course stimulate private investment for both competitive services and infrastructure upgrades;

Brief passage:

House Republicans want to dismantle Amtrak, giving private investors the task of building and operating high-speed rail service between Washington and Boston.

They believe that an infusion of private capital would enable the system to be built in 10 years, a third of the time that Amtrak projects for completion of the $117 billion project, and that service would improve if operations were put in the hands of a for-profit company.

At a hearing Thursday, House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) condemned Amtrak as having “one of the most dismal records on earth for any rail service, particularly in the Northeast Corridor.”

His plan to privatize the operations in the densely populated region from Washington to Boston was pounced on by Democrats and unions who represent Amtrak employees.

“The railroads didn’t want to run a railroad,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), pointing to the demise of private passenger rail service more than 40 years ago. “They went bankrupt on passenger service. They begged the government to take it.”

This material appears at the Committee's site:

This proposal would clearly represent a divide and conquer strategy. If a lawmaker wants to vote on the one proven absolutely essential service Amtrak operates, he can answer to his constituents for that.

If however, the lawmaker choses to vote for maintenance of the Long Distance system, he can also do that and answer to his constituents accordingly and independent of his vote regarding the Northeast Corridor. Any such proposal if enacted (and it won't be during the Obama administration) would neutralize the contention that the LD's represent the catalyst to have Federal level funding for the regional Corridor.

It could also mean the Long Distance trains would be "in jeopardy".

As previously noted, this is simply a "dust off' of a proposal made during the Bush administration - and during Rep. Mica's earlier chairmanship of the Committee. It is probably nothing more than a 'this Committee is now under new management; and we now again believe in strong Republican values of free enterprise, freedom of choice........(blahblah).

I would think this is a no start until there is again a Republican in the White House; and now that their possible '12 contenders are looking for the Exit signs and "Sarah the Sacrificial Lamb' is moving towards center stage, that likely will not be anytime sooner than '17.

Finally, if there is any interest in private sector investment, assuming risk to reap a potential reward, for rail passenger service, how about "baby steps first' - 40 additional Acela Coaches with two of such being aded to the existing 20 train sets.

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