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.

Rep. Bill Shuster. Photo: American Bus Association

Once again, the Administration has scattered funding to numerous slower-speed rail projects, and allowed Amtrak to hijack 21 of the 22 grants. [There he notes that Amtrak was the recipient of 76 of the 78 initial passenger rail grants awarded under the stimulus.] Only two months ago, the Administration finally designated the Northeast Corridor as a high-speed rail corridor, and today provided funding for projects in this region. However, with Amtrak’s plan to spend $117 billion over the next 30 years, the Administration continues to take a piecemeal approach to improving the NEC.

And Mica just can’t mention Amtrak without using his favorite epithet for it: “Amtrak – our nation’s Soviet-style passenger rail service – is incapable of carrying out a project of this scope and significance,” he said.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), who heads the Railroads Subcommittee, said he questions the realism of the president’s high-speed rail policy, although he is gratified to see the inclusion of the NEC.

“We will not achieve real high-speed rail in America by dumping 21 of 22 grants into the black hole that is Amtrak,” he said, using his own personal favorite insult for the nation’s rail service.

“We need to focus government funds on the lines that make most sense, and create incentives to bring the private sector to design, build, maintain and manage true high-speed rail lines,” he said. “I have yet to see this mindset take hold in the White House and until it does, true high-speed rail will remain on the drawing board.”

Indeed, there are some legitimate questions about the most effective way to distribute high-speed rail money and some concerns that the improved service won’t be worth the pricetag. But still, these guys are hard to please. It appears nothing short of shooting Amtrak in the head and dumping it in the ocean will make them happy.