WASHINGTON — Eighty companies and state departments of transportation have responded to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) request for expressions of interest to develop high-speed rail corridors, according to U.S. Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla.
“This overwhelming response is remarkable given the current state of the economy,” said Mica, the Republican Leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Last year, he led the effort to open high-speed rail development to private sector participation in 11 federally designated corridors in the United States. The measure including this initiative was signed into law in October.
As required by the Mica initiative, FRA began soliciting proposals in December to develop, finance, construct, operate and maintain true high-speed rail service around the country. Final proposals must be submitted by September 2009.
“The pent-up demand for high-speed rail in this country is evident by the amount of interest generated by this proposal,” Mica said. “This transportation alternative, a proven success in other countries, is an idea whose time may have finally come in the United States. High-speed rail is an efficient, effective and environmentally friendly method of transportation that can alleviate congestion on our highways and in our aviation system. High-speed rail’s time in America may be coming sooner rather than later.”
Those who have expressed interest so far include transportation finance companies; transportation consultants; architectural, engineering and construction firms; rail service providers; major international conglomerates; train manufacturers; and state departments of transportation.
In order to monitor the growing list of expressions of interest, search for docket number FRA-2008-0140 at www.regulations.gov.
In the early spring, FRA plans to host a workshop with potential participants. Following is the timeline for the submission and consideration of proposals:
— September 2009: Proposals due to FRA
— November 2009: FRA must establish Commissions to consider any proposals that are determined to be in the public interest. Commissions will consist of Governors, Mayors, Rail Labor, Amtrak, Freight Railroads and Transit Authorities. Commissions will review and rank proposals.
— February 2010: Commissions will report recommendations for their respective corridors to FRA.
— April 2010: FRA reviews Commissions’ findings and reports to Congress, beginning with the Washington, DC to New York corridor. Once House and Senate committees of jurisdiction have had an opportunity to hold a hearing on the DC-New York report, FRA may submit reports on other corridors to Congress.