In a recent interview with the Journal of Commerce, Transportation Chair John Mica (R-FL) indicated that he shares many transportation goals with the Obama administration.
We mentioned the Journal’s report the other day that Mica has tried to reassure transportation supporters that new House rules won’t starve the highway trust fund.
Now the Journal is reporting that Mica is eager to shift more freight transportation to rail in order to “ease pressure on federal road and bridge spending out of the Highway Trust Fund, by reducing the pace of wear and tear.”
“My goal would be to get more trucks off of the highway, and more cars off of the highway,” Mica said.
Mica also refered to the vastly undersubscribed Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program, which hasn’t shared the popularity of other federal funding programs like TIGER and TIFIA. He told the Journal would not try to use RRIF money for road projects, “but I can free that up for rail infrastructure … (and) enhancement of rail takes pressure off of my highways, if it’s properly applied, too.”
The Journal continued:
He also wants to take private the Amtrak Auto Train service that runs from central Florida nearly to Washington, D.C., in which drivers load their automobiles on the train and ride inside train cars for the 855-mile trip. Mica said that could be sharply expanded and perhaps broadened to include commercial trucks, as in Europe.
Such efforts, he said, save energy and “save the infrastructure, because four out of every five dollars for transportation now goes just for maintaining infrastructure. So I look at ways to take that asset, not only stop sitting on the (highway) asset, but stop wrecking the asset.”
The Journal is also reporting that Mica is planning to start a series of field hearings on the transportation reauthorization in the middle of next month. “The first thing I plan to do,” he told the Journal, “is a series of hearings around the country, and listening sessions, and we’re going to start that probably about the 18th of February.”
The current extension of the transportation bill expires March 4. It’s the sixth extension since SAFETEA-LU expired October 1, 2009.