Key House Republicans Aren’t Buying Administration HSR Proposal

Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of a $53 billion infusion for high-speed rail has fallen like a lead balloon on the ears of some key GOP leaders. House Transportation Committee Chair John L. Mica (R-FL) and Railroads Subcommittee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) expressed “extreme reservations” about the plan.

Transportation Chair John Mica has "extreme reservations" about the administration's new plan for HSR. Image: ##http://usa.streetsblog.org/2009/06/17/mica-new-federal-transpo-bill-should-have-the-need-for-speed/##Orlando Sentinel##

“This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio,” Mica said in a statement.

“With the first $10.5 billion in Administration rail grants, we found that 1) the Federal Railroad Administration is neither a capable grant agency, nor should it be involved in the selection of projects, 2) what the Administration touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere, and 3) Amtrak hijacked 76 of the 78 projects, most of them costly and some already rejected by state agencies,” Mica added. “Amtrak’s Soviet-style train system is not the way to provide modern and efficient passenger rail service.”

They say the committee plans to investigate how previous funding decisions were made, charging that rail routes were selected “behind closed doors” as a “political grab bag for the President,” despite “the Administration’s pledges of transparency.”

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result and that is exactly what Vice President Biden offered today,” Shuster said. “Rail projects that are not economically sound will not ‘win the future.’ It just prolongs the inevitable by subsidizing a failed Amtrak monopoly that has never made a profit or even broken even. Government won’t develop American high-speed rail. Private investment and a competitive market will.”

Like we said – don’t count those 53 billion chickens before they’re passed by Congress.

  • Kenney

    Oy vey. This is gonna get ugly. Comparing the Obama Administration to Bernie Madoff. Investigations into FRA’s decision making process. How will House T&I find time to write a new bill?

    While Oberstar’s STAA could have certainly been improved, the fact that Mica decided to scrap it entirely and start from scratch has left me very anxious. I can’t wait to see what he comes up. I’ve seen outlines of what Mica wants in a bill, but the devil is in the details. That Oberstar’s STAA just sat there for so long was a mixed-blessing, in the sense that the advocacy community and the general public had plenty of time to sift through it and suggest improvements. I want bill language now!

  • Brandi

    “Soviet-style trains”….lol, by that does he mean the high speed rail from Moscow to Saint Petersburg?? All of Mica’s comments are grand standing and sensationalistic destroying any productive constructive criticism he could have made. I love that the projects were “hijacked” by Amtrak which has never made a profit. I guess he doesn’t know this is because it is required by law to run long distance non-profitable routes for the public good. The Republican party has really lost any last ounce of civility it had left nowadays.

  • Mica Does Know

    “I love that the projects were “hijacked” by Amtrak which has never made a profit. I guess he doesn’t know this is because it is required by law to run long distance non-profitable routes for the public good.”

    Mica DOES know this.

    That’s why he’s pushing to privatize the Northeast Corridor – the most profitable part of Amtrak. Privatize the profits, no cross-subsidy left for unprofitable routes, so Amtrak’s loss increases, giving more political momentum to shutting it down.

    That’s the plan.

  • Joe

    I’d just like to point out that what the government has touted as “high speed freeways” has ended up instead being very expensive gridlocked parking lots. Furthermore, the failed highway system has never made a profit or even broken even!

  • Nathan H.

    “Privatize the profits, no cross-subsidy left for unprofitable routes…”

    Why should my fare in the northeast include a tax to subsidize train travel in the southwest? As a northeastern train passenger, I do not consider this a helpful government intervention.

    Since Amtrak is already “privatized”, the risk of the company overpaying itself is real whether money is a subsidy or a profit. Whether it is a regional company or a national company. Ultimately NEC train service is in competition with other modes, increasingly with intercity buses offering wifi, etc; this is the only thing that creates downward pressure on its prices and upward pressure service. I think a regionally focused train company could respond a lot better to the immense pressures and opportunities of train service here. It could hardly do worse.

    I’m very sorry it’s a Republican hobbyhorse, but the idea makes perfect sense to this frequently disappointed “Amtrak passenger”.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Republican Response to USDOT’s High-Speed Rail Grantees

|
In my last story about the allocation of high-speed rail funds, I said House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) must be pleased to finally see the Northeast Corridor get its due. In a statement hot off the GOP’s presses, Mica didn’t sound exactly pleased. Once again, the Administration has scattered funding to numerous slower-speed […]

Mica, LaHood Stump at AASHTO Meeting

|
Rep. John Mica promised state DOT leaders this morning that he would deliver a six-year reauthorization bill. He said he had previously thought of advancing a shorter-term bill but transportation officials convinced him of the need for greater certainty. With the full zeal of the converted, he announced, “Anyone who talks about anything less than […]

Mica Confirmed as Transpo Committee Chair

|
Rep. John Mica (R-FL) was confirmed today as the next Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. There have been some contested leadership elections this month but this wasn’t one of them. Mica’s position as chair was basically a foregone conclusion as soon as November’s election results came in. After the Republican conference voted […]

Mica’s Goal: More Cars Off of the Highway

|
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 […]

Mica: “The Focus of the Bill Is on the National Highway System”

|
First, to recap: The transportation reauthorization proposal that House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica unveiled yesterday (sans legislative text) calls for $230 billion over six years, cutting 33 percent out of current spending levels. The plan maintains the current 80/20 split between highways and transit funding, supports state infrastructure banks in lieu of a national […]