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PA. STATE REP. MIHALICH INTRODUCES HIGH-SPEED PASSENGER RAIL LEGISLATION

 HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- With enough co-sponsors to assure its passage, state Rep. Herman Mihalich (D-Westmoreland) today introduced legislation to begin work on a rapid rail passenger line that would span the state from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, linking the major communities in between.
 The bill would re-create the Pennsylvania High Speed Rail Commission to plan, construct and operate the line and develop later connections to places like Erie, Scranton, State College, York and other cities and regions of the state.
 Mihalich said a separate, single-purpose agency is needed to coordinate the project and push it to a successful conclusion, avoiding the rivalries and distractions that existing agencies could encounter if assigned the task of high-speed rail development. He has likened the proposed rail commission to the federal government's creation of NASA in the 1960s to conduct space exploration.
 Eventually, according to Mihalich, the state high-speed rail system would become part of a seven-state intercity network stretching from the Northeast Corridor to as far west as Missouri.
 Mihalich said he is greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support his legislation has received since he proposed the concept in August. The Westmoreland County legislator said he has received expressions of support from mayors and officials of cities along the intended route and from newspaper editorials in many of their communities.
 Support has even come from outside the state through member states of the Intercity Rail Passenger Network Compact and transportation experts such as Joseph Vranich, author of highly acclaimed works on high- speed trains as the solution to America's intercity transportation needs.
 "At last count," he said, "113 legislators have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, and it's a reflection of the desire Pennsylvanians have to find better passenger travel alternatives.
 "Many of the sponsors are also attracted by the large economic development potential in building the line and the future revenues millions of travelers would generate each year in the local communities served by the system."
 Mihalich said the former Pennsylvania High Speed Rail Commission estimated a potential market of 6 to 9 million passengers a year for a rail network such as the one his bill proposes. The commission was disbanded in 1986 after completing its report on the feasibility of advanced high-speed passenger rail service in Pennsylvania.
 "Since that time," he said, "there have been several major developments that make it even more attractive now to embark on a project of this kind.
 "First, the Clinton administration is firmly committed to passenger rail transportation and has launched an unprecedented program, in conjunction with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, to promote passenger service.
 "Pennsylvania would be better positioned to take advantage of the substantial planning grants and other benefits the act offers if it had an agency like the one proposed in this legislation. Right now, we're not even a footnote in the federal government plan because we've fallen so far behind in our development efforts."
 Mihalich also said recent changes to Congressional limits on tax-exempt bonds will make it easier for states to raise the funds needed for high-speed rail projects. A new law removes the requirement that bonds for high-speed transportation systems must be included in a state's federally imposed cap on tax-exempt bond issues.
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 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Mihalich's proposal would authorize the Pennsylvania High Speed Rail Commission to develop a passenger line connecting "the communities of Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Johnstown, Altoona, Lewistown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Paoli and Philadelphia in the system. The commission shall also study the feasibility of adding connecting service to Beaver Falls, New Castle, Sharon, Meadville and Erie, as well as to Reading, Allentown, Jim Thorpe, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and State College," as well as other points as determined by the commission./
 /CONTACT: Jim Barnes of Pennsylvania House of Representatives Office of Democratic Legislative Information, 717-787-7895/


CO: Pennsylvania House of Representatives ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:

CD-KC -- PG012 -- 8842 10/05/93 12:00 EDT
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Date:Oct 5, 1993
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