Mica's statements are in italics while I provide a response in the paragraphs thereafter.
Nowhere is the lack of investment in true high-speed more glaring than in the Northeast Corridor. This is, in fact, the only corridor owned by Amtrak. Amtrak continues its Soviet-style control over this vital transportation asset linking our nation’s financial and political capitals. Amtrak’s supposed high-speed service, the Acela, is an international joke. While high-speed trains in Europe and Asia speed along at an average of 150 mph or faster, Acela averages only 83 mph and is little more than a nice looking train that just makes fewer stops than the Amtrak regional service. The Acela simply doesn't compare to any true high-speed international service.
Mica's had this obsession of opening up the NEC to private competition since 2002. Perhaps, a separate express HSR line between Washington and Boston is needed, but only after Florida and California have their shots at running trains that are on par with trains in Europe and Asia. There's nothing wrong with opening the 456-mile corridor to private competition. But, the congressman has to realize that the Northeast has gotten preferential treatment from Amtrak for decades and that the congressional delegation will go out of its way to bar any competitors that could outshine Amtrak.
Unfortunately, 76 of the 78 stimulus grants the administration awarded under the $8 billion in the Recovery Act are for incremental speed improvements for Amtrak and do nothing to advance high-speed rail. Most of the projects selected are designed to allow passenger trains to operate only slightly faster while continuing to commingle with slower freight traffic. Much like their plan for the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak supports these projects out of self-interest — there is little doubt who will be the service provider in these new projects over routes where Amtrak currently operates.
As far as the field being tilted so heavily in Amtrak's favor, this is the one area where I agree with the congressman given that I am worried about Amtrak being the only operator of high speed rail. It would be criminal if the president didn't allow qualified operators like JR Central of Japan or SNCF to have the chance to run HSR trains because that would force Amtrak to step up its game with the NEC. If anything, Congress should subdivide Amtrak's funds into NEC and non-NEC so Amtrak can use the money wisely for other parts of the nation.