Rep. John Mica is from Florida and the ranking Republican on the house transportation and infrastructure committee. He has been fighting for local commuter rail recently but took a time out to gave a speech at the Dow Jones Infrastructure Conference. He discussed Semi HSR on the Northeast Corridor and improvements to Amtrak. When asked about the airline lobby, he had this to say:
"We'll drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century."
There was also news from the Ranking Democrat from the same committee, James Oberstar. He stated in a discussion with Minnesota Public Radio that new starts rules would be changing. This would perhaps allow a tunnel under the university and cut down the importance of our favorite cost effectiveness measure.
Oberstar, who chairs the influential House Transportation Committee, supports the Central Corridor project linking St. Paul and Minneapolis. The DFLer said a recently passed bill changes how the Federal Transit Administration evaluates transportation projects that are seeking federal money.Hopefully this means that cities start planning lines based on ridership, rather than saying, what can we build for this small amount of money.
Under the old system, Oberstar said the FTA focused on what's known as the cost-effectiveness index. The CEI is a complicated formula that looks at travel times, ridership and construction costs.
But Oberstar said the index means the agency essentially ignores other factors, such as environmental benefits and the potential for economic development. He pushed for the recent changes, which will require the FTA to also give comparable weight to five other criteria.