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
"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.