$53 billion for highspeed rail is wasteful and hurts private companies

February 8, 2011

Today, Vice President Joe Biden announced the President’s plan to expand Amtrak service across the United States, with a whopping $53 billion commitment over the next six years.

The timing of this announcement is bizarre given the President’s recent five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending.  And with Republicans in firm control of the House and general skepticism on the benefits of intercity passenger rail, this likely will not move ahead.  Here is the response from Congressman John Mica, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

I have been very critical of High Speed Rail in the United States because it competes with private companies that provide similar intercity transportation, like the commercial airline industry.

In Biden’s press release, he says:

Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership rise by 57 percent.  In fact, more passengers now travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia – and from Philadelphia to New York City and Washington D.C. – by rail than by plane.

Spending billions in public money to prop up a passenger rail system that loses an average of $37 per rider will harm competing companies that do make money. Using public taxes to artificially shift demand from an efficient sector of the economy to one that loses money is a waste of resources and places private businesses at a competitive disadvantage.