Congressman John Mica: Northeast Corridor Must Be the High-Speed Rail Priority, and Amtrak Can Keep It

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 - 06:58 PM

NY State Senator Malcolm Smith and U.S. Congress members Carolyn Maloney, John Mica and Jerry Nadler, speaking Tuesday at a U.S. High Speed Rail Association meeting (photo by Kate Hinds)

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Tuesday that nation's best shot at a viable high-speed rail line is in the Boston-to-Washington corridor -- and Amtrak can be a "full participant."

"Any further money for high-speed rail needs to solely come to the Northeast Corridor," said Congressman John Mica (R-FL), who promised to direct any rejected high-speed rail money to it.

Speaking at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association conference in Manhattan -- and joined by two Democratic members of New York's Congressional delegation -- Mica said that while it was fine to develop high-speed rail elsewhere, the focus needs to be here.

"While I want to give California every chance and opportunity to be successful," said Mica, "I think we have to redirect our efforts to having at least one success in high-speed rail in the nation. And that high-speed rail success needs to be here in the Northeast Corridor."

He added: "If even one more penny gets sent back to Washington from any high-speed rail needs to come back here."

Several states have already rejected funding for high-speed rail -- including Mica's own, which sent back $2.4 billion to the federal government earlier this year. And last week California released projections saying its bullet train program would cost almost $100 billion --  far above earlier estimates -- raising doubts about that project's viability.

Mica also said Tuesday that he will also hold a hearing in December on the status of high-speed rail and review the programs already in place.

But the big news was the change in Mica's attitude towards Amtrak -- and his reversal of his earlier position on privatizing the Northeast Corridor. "I'm willing to have Amtrak be a full participant in this process," he said Tuesday. "If there wasn't an Amtrak...we'd create an Amtrak."  Later in his talk he reiterated: "we can continue again having Amtrak be a partner in this, no one wants to push them overboard."

That's what Mica wanted to do several months ago, when he introduced legislation that aimed to take the Northeast Corridor away from Amtrak, deed it to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and privatize the development of high-speed rail. He said Tuesday he knew that proposal had been "controversial."

In a press conference afterward, he was asked why he had a change of heart. "We did put a proposal out there that we knew would be tough for them to accept," he said, referring his June legislation, "but that's what you do sometimes in the legislative process to get them to the point where they're willing to work with you to make something happen."

Mica has criticized Amtrak's 30-year timetable for building high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor as too slow. He thinks it can be done in ten to fifteen years.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said "there is widespread agreement that some sort of private capital can be brought into this, but I think -- I hope -- we have agreement that Amtrak has to be the main vehicle for it."



Comments [4]


Hard needs connectivity to metro systems to feed in passengers. Boston,NY,Baltimore, DC have metros. Mica is right to start hsr in the nec.

Nov. 12 2011 07:12 AM

And your alternative is? How much money does I-95 bring in? Oh wait, it has never made a cent and continues to cost 10x more to maintain than any other transportation mode in the region. But since its a highway you probably don't mind, right?
Airports - at capacity
Interstate - at capacity
Rail network - at capacity
...which of these costs the least to upgrade, while also garnering the most development around said upgrades?
The Rail Network, by a landslide.

Nov. 10 2011 09:37 PM

Amtrak's stewardship of the NEC so far has absorbed more than $30 billion in federal subsidy, yet achieved with that a market share of about 1%, and load factors--outside of the 90-mile Philadelphia-NY segment--of about 35%, and still loses north of a half billion dollars a year using GAAP accounting. So based on this abject market failure, Mr. Mica wants to double down with hundreds of MORE billions of pointless capital spending? Why, exactly, would any rational person (except a New Jersey Senator or a rail union boss) think that was a good idea?

Nov. 09 2011 09:15 AM
Willie Green

Despite John Mica's willingness to "compromise" on HSR development in the NE corridor. his priorities regarding our NATIONAL needs for regional passenger rail service are still politically suspect.

It is true that the NE corridor is one of the few regions in our nation with sufficient population density that may justify the enormous investment required for state-of-the-art HSR technology. However it is also the high density of existing infrastructure in this region that imposes delays and escalates construction costs.

Mica's eagerness to divert funding away from other regional projects where upgrade of passenger rail service is more pragmatic indicates that he still does not grasp our national requirement for efficient transportation infrastructure adapted to the energy challenges of the 21st Century Global Economy.

Nov. 09 2011 08:17 AM

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