Friday, February 05, 2010

Mica organizes campaign to bring high-speed rail to NEC

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U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) gathered state, municipal and Congressional representatives and other stakeholders of the U.S. Northeast Corridor (NEC) to help relaunch an effort to bring high-speed passenger rail service to the region. Attending the meeting were various officials and representatives from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

"The Administration's $8 billion in stimulus grants disappointingly did not focus on developing true high-speed passenger rail service in the Northeast Corridor," said Mica, the Republican Leader of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and author of legislation included in the 2008 passenger rail law that opened development of U.S. high-speed rail to private sector participation. However, it is vital and in our nation's interest that we continue working to help bring modern, cost effective high-speed rail to this corridor.

"The NEC is the most densely populated and congested transportation corridor in the nation. Highway routes are in a nearly perpetual state of congestion, and approximately 75 percent of the nation's chronically delayed flights fly through the New York airspace bottleneck. Relieving this gridlock would have a positive national impact.

"The NEC, with the only passenger rail right-of-way that Amtrak owns in its near entirety, is a tremendous national asset and an economic generator," Mica said. "Its ridership potential and the well-established sophisticated regional transit systems of NEC cities make it ideal for high-speed rail."

Mica pointed out that Amtrak's Acela service currently averages 83 mph between Washington, D.C., and New York. Amtrak's 2009 ridership in the corridor, of both its Acela and regional services, was approximately 10 million passengers. 

"I believe we could double or triple those numbers with true high-speed service," Mica continued.  "No other rail corridor in the country has as great a need for high-speed rail or as much potential to be a money-maker as the NEC."

Amtrak's 20-year plan to spend $15.7 billion for only modest corridor improvements still will not provide the NEC with high-speed rail that compares to the modern systems of Europe and Asia.

"This is not acceptable for the most congested, most high-speed suited corridor in the nation," Mica said. "I look forward to working with governors, mayors, my NEC colleagues in Congress and all interested parties to refocus attention and resources on the need for high-speed rail in this congested corridor."

The meeting focused on strategy to get the NEC back in the competition for high-speed rail. Northeast governors are scheduled to meet with U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood on February 21 to discuss transportation issues.

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