Cynical Synapse

Tue, 26 Oct 2010

Good Money After Bad

Amtrak on it's own rails at Dowagiac

Lest there be any doubt, I am a strong proponent of mass transit by rail and intercity rail passenger service. But…

The announcement of US DOT investing $150 million plus in Michigan’s high speed rail corridor is a misnomer. The grant is for Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to acquire and rehabilitate track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. When done, the track will allow passenger rail speeds of 79 mph. First, that’s not high speed. Second, the track is already rated at 79 mph for passenger trains. Besides relieving present owner Norfolk Southern of maintaining the track, the only tangible benefit in the grant is improving connecting track in West Detroit. The grant also includes $3.2 million for planning the Detroit-Chicago high-speed corridor. Isn’t it already planned? Work has already been done on the Amtrak-owned Kalamazoo to state line portion. What more planning needs to be done?

railroad diamonds

Just over $7.9 million will be spent on connections between Detroit area trackage and the main line in West Detroit. That part probably makes sense. But here’s a piece no one is talking about: Michigan needs to fund $30 million to get the grants. Any bets on how likely that is, given the current budget situation?

Interesting, too, is how the value of the grants is $150 to $161 million and how Sens. Levin (D) and Stabinaw (D) and Rep. Dingell (D) are all claiming credit. Regardless, they’re claiming credit for spending taxpayer dollars on something that provides little, if any, tangible benefit. In fact, if anything, it saddles taxpayers with maintaining Norfolk Southern’s right-of-way. And, if I had to bet money, I’d bet they had little or nothing to do with it. Otherwise Michigan would have been awarded these grants in the first round when Stimulus was big in the news. The fact they’re claiming responsibility just before the election is unadulterated, disgustingly sick, opportunistic grandstanding.

money up in flames

So far, Pres. Obama’s stimulus-related high speed rail initiative has amounted to jack nothing for Michigan in regard to improved travel times. Remodeling some stations and taking over a rail line is still the same 79 mph route. You won’t get people out of their cars with that. And it’s still shorter to fly, even with all the so-called security crap.

Previously on high speed rail:

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