The development of a high-speed rail network in the Northeastern U.S. should be the first step toward expanding and improving the nation's infrastructure, U.S. Rep. John L. Mica said at a conference Tuesday.
Speaking at the Dow Jones Infrastructure Summit, Mica, R-Fla., said the development of a high-speed rail network would transform the heavily traveled New York-to-Washington corridor and begin to ease the burden on congested highways.
The high speed rail initiative is a cornerstone of legislation co-sponsored by Mica, the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act would authorize more than $14.4 billion in funding for Amtrak, state passenger grants and high-speed rail over the next five years. The Rail Infrastructure Development and Expansion Act seeks to provide $24 billion in federal funds to build the high-speed network.
It's really, really, REALLY good to see Republicans like Mica stepping up on high speed rail. Earlier in the month we saw two Democratic Senators forcefully speak up for HSR and the Passenger Rail Investment Act, so it's good to see Republicans getting in on the act. Of course, Mica wasn't done:
In response to a suggestion that the Air Transport Association - a trade group for the U.S. airline industry - would not support such a proposal, Mica underlined the urgent need to update the rail system.
"We'll drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century," he said.
Right on. It is gratifying to see more politicians realizing that the airline industry is not in a position - and should not be in a position - to block HSR projects. This isn't early 1990s Texas. The airlines, along with politicians and the media, need to be dragged into the 21st century, whether they kick and scream or not.
The more politicians who speak up like this, the more the media will come to realize that HSR's time has come. Hopefully that might mean less ridiculous questions about ridership and funding projections, and more of a focus on our massive infrastructure, energy, and environmental needs. If even Republicans from Florida understand the need for HSR, well, there's hope for this country after all.