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Experts Speak Out

In Wick’s winter of discontent, Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner:

The American Intercity Rail Network for the 21st Century (AIRNet-21), a public-private partnership prepared to invest $60 billion in NEC infrastructure renewal and expansion over 50 years, with zero from congressional appropriations, deserves Moorman’s attention, along with other responsible market-based alternatives to the status quo. Moorman has opportunity to transform a winter of discontent into a Casablanca-movie moment: Wick, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Congress and the American people.

"Is Robert Serlin Amtrak’s Merlin?" asks Frank N. Wilner following his interview with one of the chief architects of AIRNet-21:

“The IMO would charge for use of NEC operating slots and stimulate growth through a host of new rail services on top of the current center-city to center-city model,” Serlin says. “Commuter access fees would not exceed avoidable costs. The for-profit IMO will earn its return by doubling NEC train miles within 15 years and creating new transportation opportunities.”

“Greater entrepreneurial inventiveness would be encouraged,” Serlin says, “stimulating Amtrak to respond creatively to competition from other rail passenger operators.” Legally binding safeguards will preserve Amtrak’s existing labor arrangements.

Michael R. Weinman, Managing Director, PTSI Transportation, writes about AIRNet-21 in response to Dr. Francis P. Mulvey's earlier guest blog:

It creates an “off-budget” funding stream that causes more than a billion dollars annually to be invested in Amtrak’s owned infrastructure. It includes incentives and penalties to achieve project delivery focused on fixed project budgets and hard final completion dates using construction and project management techniques the private sector routinely employs. It eliminates the allocation of Amtrak’s NEC costs to non-NEC trains and, consequently, it increases Amtrak’s political viability and broadens its political support.

AlRNet-21 causes substantial northeast and midwest investment and workforce development. As the IMO’s annual $1 billion investments accumulate, NEC chokepoints will be removed, and the fastest New York-Washington trip times will be reduced to about 2 hours. It permits Chicago/Michigan infrastructure to serve as a development platform for new, high-quality passenger services emanating from a Chicago hub.

In his 2015 guest blog in RailwayAge (We must do something transformational about Amtrak), distinguished economist, educator Dr. Francis P. Mulvey writes:

AIRNet-21 is good public policy. It fully protects the public sector. Amtrak’s infrastructure and improvements thereto remain publicly owned and collaboration is promoted between stakeholders to leverage commuter agencies’ funding resources.

AlRNet-21 is also good business policy, achieving better rail service, guaranteeing that more than $50 billion of non-appropriated monies are invested in Amtrak’s NEC and midwest infrastructures, fully protecting Amtrak’s passengers and workers, and removing Amtrak’s infrastructure losses from Amtrak. The private sector IMO managing Amtrak’s infrastructure must, at all times, bear the financial risk of its undertakings, may only benefit from its lMO role to the extent operating surpluses are produced, and be unable to bail out when outcomes are worse than forecasts. I believe we must do something transformational, now. Today’s Amtrak experiment hasn’t worked, but we can learn from it. DOT Secretary Foxx has stated multiple times that public/private partnerships may be the only way the government can fund the maintenance and construction of transportation infrastructure mega-projects. AIRNet-21 was once thought “too good to be true,” but it is true. Change is banging on our door asking to be embraced. Why are we not embracing AlRNet-21?

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