Skip to comments.Congress, Governors Nix Obama’s High-Speed Trains (The States know it makes no economic sense)
Posted on 10/13/2011 7:33:27 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Dead. Kaput. Through. Finished. Washed up. Gone-zo.
That, I think, is a fair description of the Obama administrations attempt to build high-speed-rail lines across America.
It hasnt failed because of a lack of willingness to pony up money. The Obama Democrats February 2009 stimulus package included $8 billion for high-speed-rail projects. The Democratic Congress appropriated another $2.5 billion.
But Congress is turning off the spigot. The Republican-controlled House has appropriated zero dollars for high-speed rail. The Democratic-majority Senate Appropriations Committee has appropriated $100 million in its budget recommendation.
Thats effectively a vote of no confidence to President Obamas infrastructure initiative, concludes transportation analyst Ken Orski, a bipartisan signal that Congress has no appetite for pouring more money into a venture that many lawmakers have come to view as a poster child for wasteful spending.
The Transportation Department is struggling to push some of the previously appropriated money out the door. Some $480 million of planning, engineering, and construction grants were made to eleven state governments in September.
But this doesnt build many rail lines, and with one exception, none of them is really high-speed, like Frances TGV or Japans bullet train. The governors of Wisconsin and Ohio nixed train lines that wouldnt provide faster service than current parallel interstate highways. The governor of Florida cancelled a faster line between Orlando and Tampa, which are only 90 miles apart.
The one remaining project that really promises high-speed-rail travel, in California, faces cost overruns that would be astonishing except for the fact that cost overruns have been standard operating procedure in high-speed-rail projects around the world.
The feds insist California build a 160-mile segment in the Central Valley that is estimated to cost at least $10 billion and will have virtually no riders. The estimated cost of the whole project has zoomed from $43 billion to $67 billion, and there seems to be no prospect of any more public or private-sector money.
Obama has rhapsodized about the wonders of getting on a train across the street from your office and traveling to another city, and he has presented high-speed rail as a technology of the future. But high-speed rail is futuristic in the same way as Disneys original Tomorrowland. Gee, someday youll be able to take frozen peas from your freezer and heat them on your electric range.
Passenger rail is an old technology that is particularly attractive to planners, the folks who want to force us out of our cars and into subways that travel only on the routes they design. Lets make everyone live the way people do in Manhattan!
This is contrary to the thrust of emerging information technologies, which let us take whatever path on the Internet we want. Sort of like automobiles.
Moreover, the idea that it would be great to put high-speed-rail lines all over the country shows an underappreciation of American geography and of some of the nations genuine strengths.
High-speed rail can compete with air travel only over limited distances, but the United States is a continent-sized country. Japan and France, as you may have noticed, are a lot smaller.
China, which is continent-sized too, has been building high-speed rail, but its cutting back now and slowing down the trains after a bad accident. Brazil, also continent-sized, is dropping plans for a Rio de JaneiroSao Paulo line. Its airlines and buses already work fine.
Americas alleged lag in high-speed rail is also a consequence of our excellence in freight rail. Over three decades after Jimmy Carters deregulation, freight rail has squeezed out costs and made shipped goods much cheaper for all of us. Europe and Japan have lousy freight rail and pay more for things.
The reason thats important is that truly high-speed trains cannot use freight tracks. Freight trains travel slower and have a hard time getting out of the way of passenger trains traveling 200 miles per hour. Japans bullet train and Frances TGV operate on dedicated tracks specially built for them. Thats expensive.
As a frequent traveler from Washington to New York, Id love to see a real high-speed train in the Northeast corridor the only place in the country where it might make economic sense. But if not having one is the price to be paid for the demise of the Obama high-speed-rail boondoggle, Im happy to pay it.
Michael Barone, senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor, and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.
Happy to hear yet another Obama failure. The writing is on the wall.
We’ll tell you where to go and when to go.
Obama had penis envy of the Chinese high speed rail projects in 2009.
Since then it has become public knowledge that those Chinese rail projects were graft, corruption and sub-standard materials plagued boondoggles.
The question left to ponder in light of Solyndra and SunPower, is whether Obama’s penis envy came from the grandiosity of the projects, or the grotesque proportions of trough slopping of the graft.
“The feds insist California build a 160-mile segment in the Central Valley that is estimated to cost at least $10 billion and will have virtually no riders. The estimated cost of the whole project has zoomed from $43 billion to $67 billion, and there seems to be no prospect of any more public or private-sector money.”
This is nothing more than the high-speed illegal Mexican farmworkers express. “Traveling in high speed comfort to your next picking job!”
< sniffle >
Courtesy ping to another hi-speed rail “success”
And over there is the town of Nowhere.
And over there is the town of Nowhere.
Oh noes. The dreaded double post. I didn’t do that. I swear my computer did.
Three letters: TSA. Why doesn't BHO mention that?
Willie Green would be saddened. But this is great news for America! We have nowhere near the population density to support a a high speed rail system. I don’t want central government planners telling us where to go. If there is a genuine demand for it, let the market and not the taxpayers, provide for it.
Thank heaven we are returning to a rational transportation policy.
You need dedicated track to run a high speed train. They are profitable in France and Japan because there are people living along every square kilometer of the route in those countries. That’s not true of America outside of the coasts. To travel a very far distance, its just cheaper to take a plane. And for journeys of two hours, most people would prefer to take their car. In this country, I say we give people freedom to decide how they want to get somewhere. I don’t want a bureaucrat to make that decision for me.
California’s Central Valley high speed train line will never be built. There isn’t the ridership to justify building a route that would operate at a perennial loss. The absence of private sector funding should tell you the reason the route was selected was primarily with political considerations in mind than whether it actually fulfilled an unmet public demand. There isn’t one.