As Amtrak moves forward with plans to bring high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica would prefer to see someone other than the federal government oversee the nation’s most profitable rail line. As the Associated Press reported last week, Mica has called for the privatization of the Northeast Corridor. “I believe that we have great potential in the Northeast corridor,” Mica said. “The only thing standing in the way is Amtrak or the federal government or Congress.”
Essentially, Mica wants the government to sell its only profitable rail line while Amtrak itself would prefer to see private investment help fund the high-speed rail network. At a time when many believe the federal government should focus its high-speed rail resources solely on the Northeast Corridor, Mica’s announcement is a peculiar one. For now, at least, the Northeast Corridor helps offset the losses the federal government suffers by supporting the rest of Amtrak’s national rail network. Severing it isn’t an economically sound policy proposal.
In the House, Mica and John Duncan say they have enough votes to pass the plan, but the Senate wouldn’t usher this move through. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg warned that ticket prices, already high, would immediately increase under a privatized plan, but those are the least of our worries. Yonah Freemark believes that privatization would spell the end of the competition currently fueling the Northeast Corridor’s profitability while Alon Levy says that FRA regulations are to blame for any inefficiencies in Amtrak’s operations.