Trains For America

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Developing: A big HSR bill from John Kerry?

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has an interview with Senator Jonny Isakson (R-GA)  about new legislation sponsored by Senator John Kerry called the “High Speed Rail for America Act.” Apparently Kerry has sent a letter to his congressional colleauges about the proposal, which the AJC quotes:

Kerry’s office wouldn’t answer questions about the measure, dubbed the High Speed Rail for America Act, but a letter he sent to colleagues talks big: “$200 million per year in grants, $8 billion in tax-exempt bonds, $10 billion in tax-credit bonds for high-speed intercity rail facilities, and $5.4 billion in tax-credit bonds for rail infrastructure.”

I can’t find much more information about the proposed legislation, but I’ll be working to get the full text of the letter tomorrow. A high-speed rail initiative in this country would be great if executed well, but we don’t want any nascent project to siphon funds and support away from our already functioning Amtrak system.

I won’t be passing judgement until we get more details.

Edit after some more thinking: From the article I get the impression that the bill might involve all new track.. but I’m not sure. The way Isakson talks seems to point to a European-style system where a public entity owns the infrastructure, which private-ish operators then rent. Again, hard to make any assessments until we get some more details.

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Filed under: Amtrak, United States High Speed Rail, , ,

6 Responses

  1. Avery says:

    well, this would fit right in with the idea of state-run operations instead of a nationwide (amtrak) system. I like the idea of 3 or more states getting together on a project, such as here in CO with the front range rail plan. I understand this won’t work everywhere, such as the east coast where politics tend to get in the way (for instance, it would be a great idea to combine several of the local transits such as Septa, Marc and NJT, and form an intercity network such as the SBB in germany/switzerland).

    I think smaller networks will focus more on making rail a good alternative to driving or flying short distances, where Amtrak fails, but if they are too small it doesn’t do any good either, especially when they connect with other networks making transfers necessary.

    Of course, if the state networks are built, it would make it a lot more affordable for amtrak to continue its business, and allow them to have faster and more on-time long distance trains.

  2. [...] Trains for America. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)More Frustrated Fliers Taking to the [...]

  3. Ran says:

    Avery-

    It’s worth noting that if this network were built, on the terms that Isakson described, it would feature private operators. I am sure they would object mightily to competing with Amtrak. While one could argue about keeping Amtrak as a Chevy while the HSR trains were a Cadillac, the truth is Amtrak relies on its Cadillac pax to fund its Chevy pax, so that’s not a sustainable tiering arrangement. More here: http://rbiii.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/new-hsr-bill-from-john-kerry/

  4. Gary K. says:

    Even it is just talk, I find it exciting that people are actually talking train upgrades. I hope momentum continues to build.

  5. [...] 23, 2008. It doesn’t give many more concrete details than what we got out of the snippet from yesterday’s post, but it’s interesting to see his rhetoric and the ways he plans to market this bill. Dear [...]

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