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Thursday, June 23, 2011    Amtrak

Mica-Shuster Amtrak plan 'unrealistic' and will cost taxpayers, Boardman says

Yesterday, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that the legislation proposed by Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) to bid out Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Acela service and other lines to private contractors would slow — not advance — the development of high-speed rail (HSR) along the corridor.

The soon-to-be-introduced bill includes “unrealistic time schedules and assumptions; it will fail to provide adequately for transportation safety and security; and it will be more expensive,” Boardman said in prepared testimony.

“Under the Mica-Shuster proposal, the potential for service disruption, safety failures and the failure to understand the environmental protections is too great a risk,” he said. “It would set back the development of high-speed rail by 10 years or more and will cost the economy of the Northeast and the U.S. taxpayer a great deal more money.”

Amtrak has its own “next-generation” plan to boost the speed of HSR along the corridor over 30 years. Mica and Shuster have proposed a 10-year plan, in which the corridor’s HSR service would be bid to a private contractor. Mica and Shuster also want to turn over other Amtrak lines to private contractors.

Amtrak’s Acela service currently demonstrates that HSR can be competitive in the United States, Boardman said.

“Our next next-generation high-speed rail plan has received many positive international peer reviews and we are now moving forward on implementation,” he said. “Key to that progress will be for Amtrak to secure private funding using more creative approaches than we have been open to in the past. The world’s infrastructure needs have created new financial tools for major world-class projects such as ours. Amtrak intends to use those tools to realize our plan.”

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