My Bio and This Blog's Purpose

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 9

The GOP just won't stop with its anti-rail stance
Just when I though it was safe came this news from here in NC and this one from MO. First, the NC House decided that since it couldn't block the federal stimulus funds to upgrade the Piedmont route and implement SEHSR service it wants to have veto power to stop the state from spending more than $5 million annually on operating and maintenance costs in the future.

Second, a committee in the Missouri legislature decided not to honor Governor Jay Nixon's vision to receive $1 billion in federal money to not only upgrade the existing St. Louis-Kansas City line but to build an entirely new line for Express service. The move would mean that the state wouldn't spend the money if the Obama Administration gave it part of Florida's grant.

The moves are sheer madness and really sets the Republicans to be the party of highways and oil. In NC's case, the GOP can now take its talking points from an anti-transit, pro-highway think tank called the John Locke Foundation. This now means that people who actually take trains will have to tell these unenlightened lawmakers the benefits of rail.

2011: A bad year for high speed rail
The year is not even half over and one can easily sum up 2011 to be a horrible year for high speed rail. Even before the year began, two governors-in-waiting had already declared their intent to return stimulus money to the feds in favor of roads. Then, Rick Scott used an anti-rail think tank's study to kill the high speed project in Florida two months ago. Now, we find out that in order to avoid a government shutdown, the Senate and President Obama allowed the House to eliminate HSR funding for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Who's to say that future funding won't be next? If the White House is willing to sacrifice HSR instead of following up on its pledge that it's something essential for America's future, then the country as a whole must reexamine how relevant 150-200 mph trains are when there has been no expansion in "slow" overnight trains in decades even though people have been using Amtrak in the last few years. My opinion is that HSR should be frozen--that is, fast train service should be limited to five regions--while the long-distance network has to be rebuilt, with or without Amtrak.

Rick Scott's caught fibbing
Speaking of the Florida governor, Scott admitted last week that he misquoted the amount the state had spent on its now scuttled HSR project.

Of course, it's of no comfort now to people who had anticipated the fast train. Even though the governor blames the error on miscommunication with the state's DOT, one can only hope he is not as intellectually dishonest with SunRail as Ohio's John Kasich who repeated the 39 mph lie when in truth the 3C train was really going to travel at 79 mph.

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