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USHSR proposes legislation encouraging private investment in HSR


During the last day of a three-day high-speed rail summit, U.S. High Speed Rail Association (USHSR) leaders gave attendees a summary of legislation the association will propose to encourage private investment in high-speed rail (HSR).

The Private Investment in High Speed Rail Act of 2011 (PIHSR) would provide federal incentives for private-sector investment, as well as targeted expenditures of public funds to advance HSR development in the United States.

PIHSR calls for providing tax credits to develop new HSR facilities and businesses. It also proposes to expand the Transportation and Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The act currently allows for federal investment in transportation projects, including HSR, but only covers a small percentage of available transportation projects, according to USHSR. By expanding the TIFIA ceilings and percentages, additional federal dollars could be leveraged and more projects would be able to receive funding, the bill’s summary said.

In addition, the legislation contains a provision that would enable Amtrak to attract private investment by issuing stocks and bonds guaranteed by government securities. Those stocks and bonds could be used to infuse private capital into Amtrak and enable the railroad to rebuild the Northeast Corridor.

PIHSR also proposes that the U.S. departments of transportation and treasury conduct a study to determine the most efficient way to create and operate a bank to fund infrastructure projects such as HSR.

Another provision: using state-received federal funds to leverage borrowing from private institutions to finance HSR in key states. By enabling states to invest their federal HSR funds, they can finance projects with minimal initial investment and "relieve the current stress on overwhelmed state budgets," the bill's summary said.

USHSR distributed the legislation earlier this week to several congressmen who were scheduled to speak during this week's summit in Washington, D.C. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) referred to the legislation during their presentations at the summit. Both said they would support the bill.

— Angela Cotey

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/10/2011