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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Amtrak's Boardman: Mica proposal is 'broader than the NEC'


This afternoon, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman held a press teleconference to provide his thoughts on the proposal outlined today by Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Bill Shuster (R-Fla.) to privatize the Northeast Corridor.

Until the legislation is formally introduced next week, Boardman won’t say much.

“This is even broader than the Northeast Corridor at this point in time,” he said. “We’ve looked it over, read the pieces of it and they’re not all necessarily clear.”

What is clear is that Mica and Shuster — chairmen of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, respectively — are proposing to “take Amtrak apart almost entirely,” the remains of which will become a federal entity under the U.S. Department of Transportation, Boardman said.

However, from what he does know, Boardman is not supportive of how Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor would be structured.

“I believe Mica and Shuster want to improve intercity passenger-rail service in the United States and this is something they think will help do that,” Boardman said. “But I believe Amtrak right now is the best opportunity and has been for a considerable period of time to make those improvements.”

To date, Amtrak has unveiled its own plan for 220 mph operations on the Northeast Corridor, posted ridership gains for 19 consecutive months, used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars to rebuild coaches and locomotives, ordered new long-distance coaches and electric locomotives, created fleet and business plans and reduced debt by more than half, Boardman says.

“There seems to be a lack of recognition that Amtrak is the right organization to deliver better intercity passenger-rail service in this country, and from that standpoint, I am disappointed and discouraged by those that will not recognize the facts,” he said.

Boardman plans to review the details of the bill as they are released. He hopes there will be constructive dialogue about the plan.

“It doesn’t help us as an industry to do a down and dirty fight with something like this. There really has to be a debate … about what we should do in this nation for intercity passenger rail for the future,” he said. “I want to figure out how to get this in front of the right people to make the right decisions for the future.”

Angela Cotey

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/15/2011