There have been many developments in high-speed rail over the last two weeks. Here is a summary of what I feel are some of the most important developments, including one item that needs your input!
On June 15 Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Chairman of the Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee, presented an amendment to the FY2012 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill rescinding unobligated high-speed rail ARRA money from FY2010.
The bill is scheduled to come to the House floor during the week of July 5. Funds could be rescinded as early as October 1. However, as long as the FRA obligates the money before the appropriations bill is enacted, there will be nothing left to rescind. Click this link to see how the FRA has already begun this process.
The House has already zeroed out high-speed rail funds for FY12, while the senate has yet to make a decision. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association and our rail coalition partners will soon be launching a campaign to fight for high-speed rail appropriations in the FY12 Federal Budget.
In anticipation of the bill's consideration (to rescind previously awarded high-speed rail money) and FY12 budget appropriations, it is important for our public officials in Congress to hear from constituents (YOU!) expressing concern that their district stands to lose important projects if current money is rescinded and future money is not allocated. The message must be loud and clear that your communities will be negatively impacted by rescinding any high-speed rail money! Email your Congressman and Senators now!
Congressman Mica and Congressman Shuster made a sincere push for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor when they introduced the "The Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act" on June 15. The bill would create a separate entity to control the Amtrak-owned portions of the Northeast Corridor and create a structure to allow private entities to invest in the corridor. It is important to remember that the debate sparked by this bill is not directly relevant to the Midwest since the tracks Amtrak operates on here are already owned by private companies.
At a hearing about the bill held on June 22, Congressman Mica had a productive exchange with Amtrak President Joe Boardman in which Mica stated that was not committed to creating a new entity if Amtrak could accomplish his goals within its current structure. Boardman assured him that it could be done.
The bill also included a provision for private companies bidding for Amtrak's poorest performing routes. There is already a provision in the current law for this to occur, though no investors have come forward.
The bill prompts an important discussion about the future of the Northeast Corridor. However, if passed, it would probably result in fewer trains for the Midwest. At present, the bill seems unlikely to pass, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on.
Senator Kirk introduced the "Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act" at an event in Chicago on June 20. The bill is designed to make private financing of new transportation infrastructure easier and removes existing federal restrictions on public-private partnerships. Other changes included in the bill to TIFIA (a federal loan program for transportation infrastructure) and to RRIF (a federal loan program for railroad infrastructure) will positively impact high-speed rail. Read a summary of the bill on Senator Kirk's website.