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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 20

More shenanigans by the House to keep the oil addiction going
So, earlier this month, the House Transportation & Housing Subcommittee passed what NARP has penned the "kill Amtrak bill." This bill, if passed, would slash Amtrak's grants, prevent the national carrier from using operating grants to fund corridors, and eradicate the High Speed Rail Intercity Passenger Rail Program.


Take #1: How about someone showing some kind of spine for once? I mean, the Obama Administration and the Senate have already blinked twice on immediate funding for HSR--during the budget showdown in March (no funding for the remainder of FY 11) and again once the debt ceiling deal was settled mid-summer (no further funding until at least FY 13).


The Administration has to stand up for funding of the HSIPR Program or what I said five months ago only carries more weight: Either the president has to be fully committed to HSR or the entire program has to be curtailed in a way that only the five most rail-friendly regions get funding and everyone else has to get to the back of the line and produce conventional rail routes and depend on new long-distance routes! 


So, Mr. President, if you want to compromise with the House on an issue or two, it cannot be the HSIPR Program that you planned 2 1/2 years ago. Not any more.  


Take #2: If RailPAC's Russ Jackson is spot on about another aspect of the bill, then we are talking about something that's really unnecessary. As far as I'm concerned, if the House Subcommittee wants private sector involvement, then it should be enforcing Section 502 of PRIIA and let the states open up the bidding process to other companies.


The problem with one state depending on another
Iowa has now asked the feds to decouple it from a joint $230 million grant that it has with Illinois. The move would allow the latter to revive service to the Quad Cities while the Hawkeye State does a study to extend the route to Omaha.


Take: It's too early to figure out how Washington will respond, but this shows that if more states are to get involved in planning regional corridors, there must be some kind of protection so there isn't this type of flakiness in the event one state's government flips over like it did with Iowa.  

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