Writing in this week’s Wall Street Journal with former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, Peter Peyser ’76 of Blank Rome,* calls Amtrak “a joke” and suggests that its Northeast Corridor service (likely the only viable high-speed rail service in the U.S.) be spun off into a public-private partnership:

A September 2010 study by Amtrak showed that a railroad operating at 220 mph in the Northeast Corridor would generate a $900 million annual operating profit. Undoubtedly, improving the service will be costly. It will require constructing a dedicated track that won’t be used by freight or commuter lines. Can such sums be raised to create a world-class railroad in the United States? We think so.

The first step is for the federal government, which ultimately controls Amtrak, to break off the Northeast Corridor into a separate company. It could then package the railroad for transfer out of federal control. The new railroad should be a public-private partnership. Fifty-one percent of this new company would be owned by a multistate compact among the nine states along the corridor and the District of Columbia. The remaining 49% would be owned by a private consortium that would likely include an investment bank/private-equity group, a railroad operating company, railroad unions and equipment vendors.

Read the rest, and note that Peyser and Rendell, while claiming to support President Obama’s call for investment in high-speed rail nationwide, don’t mention the likelihood that with the Northeast Corridor spun off, the remainder of Amtrak is likely to be quickly doomed under the federal government’s dire budgetary pressures.

(Edited to add photo of Peyser, left, with Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta in 2001).

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