Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Obama Wants $53B for High-Speed Rail

President Obama is asking for $53 billion for high-speed rail as part of his WTF (win the future) program to rebuild the USA infrastructure. I have posted several times that I don’t see high-speed rail as a way to the future for the US, we are too spread out and too in love with our autos.  Michelle Malkin has more.

 I really believe that the money would be better spent on improving our roads and freeways.  These are going to have to been done eventually, why not now? The $53 billion could be used for several projects that would improve traffic flow. There are two examples in my local area. The first is the I-5 Columbia River Bridge between Portland and Vancouver which will cost $6-$7 billion. The Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement is expected to cost $3.1 billion (not holding my breath) for a bored tunnel under the western side of downtown Seattle (essentially under the existing viaduct). Both of these projects would increase trafficability tremendously in the respective areas. I am sure the cost per user would be much less than the per user cost for high-speed rail.

It is currently estimated that it will cost $23 billion to complete the California high-speed rail project. While there are candy-cane ridership dreams by the supporters of high-speed rail, American’s track record for using passenger trains over the past 50 years is not good.  There is a reason why one of the major rail systems have passenger service. There is also a reason why Amtrak is generally second fiddle on the rail lines. It could very well turn out the project will be completed and ridership will be no different than Amtrak is now. Will the government subsidize the high-speed rail system like they do with Amtrak? Will this continue to be an albatross around the taxpayer’s necks for the foreseeable future? The two projects mentioned in the paragraph above would cost the taxpayer approx $13-14B (including the cost overruns) and once the money is spent and the projects completed, no more subsidizes. Kind of a pay and forget system. This seems like a better use of taxpayer funds. Not only is it going to be cheaper in the long run, but it is what the people want.

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