The private sector is “just the place to look” to “repair” the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line, said Bill Shuster, chairman of the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Pennsylvania Congressman Shuster, a Republican, cited an “immediate need for state-of-good repair” in making his plea to involve private capital with the Corridor in a Committee hearing in New York.
The NEC is a fully electrified passenger rail serving the ‘Northeast megalopolis’ region of the US from Boston through New York and Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
The Corridor is owned and operated by Amtrak, a publicly funded government service, but is badly in need of repair work and upgrading.
Stressing that “we do not have unlimited” funding, Shuster urged the Committee to consider using private investment to mend the NEC.
“We want to encourage the private sector to get involved,” Shuster said, “along with state and local government, in order to fully leverage federal investment”.
Committee member Jeff Denham agreed with Shuster.
Denham, who is also chairman of the US House Subcommittee on Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Material, said government should seek “to involve the private sector”.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the federal government to continue to support the full financial burden,” Denham, a Republican Congressman from California, said.
Denham went on to describe the NEC as “the most highly trafficked rail corridor in the country,” as well as the “sole moneymaking enterprise” for Amtrak.
In the hearing, named ‘The Importance of the Northeast Corridor,’ Shuster and Denham echoed the White House in their appeal to partner with the private sector.
US President Barack Obama has alluded to attracting private capital and private sector expertise to modernise and restore public infrastructure in his newly unveiled ‘Partnership to Rebuild America’.
Shuster has long argued for involvement of the private sector in the Northeast Corridor.
In 2011, he supported John Mica, the Florida Congressman and then head of the Committee, in his plan to privatise the rail.