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States should use federal act to foster more passenger-rail competition, AIPRO says


States should embrace the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) by introducing competition into the bidding for passenger-rail operations, an Association of Independent Passenger Rail Operators (AIPRO) official said in testimony during a recent hearing before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

PRIIA required states to bear cost increases in existing operations, while concurrently allowing them to seek contracts with service providers. AIPRO's aim is to encourage competition in the market, association officials said in a prepared statement.

AIPRO, which was formed earlier this year, is calling for the next surface transportation bill to include a provision that would "maintain the robust investment in the nation's freight-rail network and stimulate cost-effective passenger-rail expansion," association officials said.

In testimony at the March 11 hearing, AIPRO Secretary and Treasurer Stan Feinsod presented the association’s recommended approach:

• Provide states with the budget-neutral option of managing passenger-rail corridor service, offering an initiative for the Northeast Corridor to explore high-speed rail;
• Reform and expand PRIIA's alternative passenger-rail pilot program to become a freestanding, competitive alternative to current service and place the intercity state corridor program under state authority; and
• Establish a passenger-rail infrastructure bank that would leverage grants and loans by expanding the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program.

"In order to create a passenger rail network that is competitive with those being operated in other parts of the world, states must exercise their right to control passenger rail corridors and allow for competitive bidding," AIPRO Executive Director Ray Chambers said. "Model programs have demonstrated success initiating controlled competition for passenger operations in Britain and Germany, among others."

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More News from 3/16/2011