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HSR in the U.S.? Maybe Yes with a Public Private Partnership

Samuel Staley
May 27, 2011, 10:53am

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held hearings earlier this week on high-speed rail. Chaired by Representative John Mica (R-FL), extensive time was devoted to turning the Northeast Corridor over to private management via an European-style long-term concession (public-private partnership). Mica and Rail Subcommittee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) believe this would significantly reduce costs and speed up the implementation of high-speed rail in the United States.

This is an approach Reason Foundation has supported for years, and we provided testimony supporting a P3 for the Northeast Corridor. The written testimony by adjunct researcher Carlos Bonilla and director of transportation policy Bob Poole can be found here.

Here's a summary of the Mica-Shuster HSR P3 Plan according to the committee's press release:

Summary of the Mica/Shuster Northeast Corridor Proposal:
Deregulating Passenger Rail in America’s Most Densely Populated Region

The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is home to 20 percent of our nation’s population and the poster child for crippling highway and aviation congestion. After trying Amtrak’s way for 40 years without success, it is time to bring the private sector and competition to the table.

Instead of throwing more and more taxpayer dollars at the program, the Mica/Shuster plan does more with less – by leveraging private sector investment, increasing competition, and opening the door to public private partnerships we can finally bring true high-speed rail to the NEC, and in half the time and at significantly less cost.

The Mica and Shuster proposal is being developed according to the following principles:

Ending the Amtrak Monopoly
• Separates the NEC from Amtrak, spinning it off as a separate business unit
• Transfers the title for the NEC to a separate entity

Bringing Competition and the Private Sector to the Table
• Requires a competitive bidding process for the NEC
• Establishes performance standards for true high speed rail with a requirement for service in less than 2 hours between Washington, DC and New York City
• Reduces and potentially eliminates the need for federal subsidies

The Time is Now
• Moves America forward in less than half the time as Amtrak’s proposal with firm deadlines for action

Creating Jobs and Worker Protections
• Ensures labor protections are kept in place and provides for hiring preference to any potentially displaced Amtrak employees


Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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