At the American Public Transportation Association's annual rail conference, held in Boston that same week, Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo pointed out that Amtrak has seen 19 consecutive months of ridership growth. Asked about the Mica plan on June 13, he said, “We need a good conversation about the role of private investment.” But he expressed caution about “letting this public asset slip away from us.”

Charlie Hogue, a spokesman for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way union, says the Mica proposal would jeopardize the retirement plans of some 10,000 workers on the corridor and questioned why Mica would want to privatize the one Amtrak line that was already profitable.

APTA officials largely supported President Obama's proposed $556-billion surface transportation reauthorization bill, which includes $53 billion for high-speed rail over the next six years. The plan proposes to merge Amtrak's subsidies into the high-speed-rail program as part of a “system preservation” initiative, requiring Amtrak to compete for grants.

Panelists discussed the successes and failures of rail-related P3s around the world. Nicholas Hann, managing director for investor Macquarie, noted that an initial attempt to privatize British rail failed, although, eventually, the private sector took over again. For greenfield projects, P3s often are seen as a funding mechanism, Hann added. “They are better regarded as an efficient delivery mechanism,” he said.