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3/17/2008



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Rep. Mica introduces measure to establish D.C.-to-New York City high-speed service


U.S. high-speed rail hopefuls would like nothing more than for their high-speed dreams to turn the fantasy corner and begin to approximate reality. U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) believes legislation he unveiled in the House of Representatives last week would do just that.

Introduced on March 14, H.R. 5644 seeks to develop high-speed rail in the Washington, D.C.-New York City corridor, with the aim of developing other high-speed corridors around the country.

"Today, high-speed passenger rail is a vital component of transportation systems around the world, but in this country it's been a fantasy," said Mica, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican Leader, in a prepared statement. "Bringing high-speed rail to the United States, beginning with the Northeast Corridor, is long overdue. By first establishing a high-speed system that can cover the distance between Washington, D.C., and New York City in under two hours, we can provide a fast and efficient transportation alternative that will take cars and trucks off our tremendously congested highways."

Here are a few of the bill's provisions:
• The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) would solicit proposals for development of a high-speed rail link along the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City.
• Proposals would need to include engineering, financing and development plans for the corridor, and require D.C.-to-New York City express service of no more than two hours.
• The USDOT would convene a commission of state, local, federal, rail and rail labor stakeholders to evaluate proposals and report recommendations to Congress; Congress then would evaluate the report and take the necessary action to commence corridor work.
• The D.C.-New York City link would serve as a pilot for similar projects across the United States, and the Transportation Secretary could request proposals for other corridors after selection of the Northeast Corridor proposal.
• The bill also would guarantee labor protections and require a study to examine how to achieve "maximum economic utilization" of the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak's Acela service currently provides passenger-rail service between D.C. and New York City at an average speed of 83 mph. By contrast, service in such countries as France and Japan reaches speeds of more than 200 mph, making these systems attractive alternatives to driving or flying, Mica said, noting that the bill has bipartisan support.


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