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New GOP Governors Want To Spend High-Speed Rail Funds On Roads

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Driver follows GPS and ends up on train tracks

Driver follows GPS and ends up on train tracks

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has rejected a request from two recently elected GOP governors-to-be asking to cancel light-rail projects in the works and funnel the money elsewhere.

Ohio governor-elect John Kasich wants to use $400 in federal funds pledged to a Cleveland-to-Cincinnati high-speed passenger-rail project for road construction or freight lines instead.

Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker had already tried the same—with the same denial from LaHood—wanting to cancel an $810 million Madison-to-Milwaukee rail line in favor of more roadbuilding.

In both cases, the governors had decided that the projects weren't viable in this economy, as they rely on significant state funds in addition to those from the federal government.

Walker said he wanted to use the funds for state roads and bridges that he described as "literally crumbling."

That likely won't be possible, though—and it's not just a case of LaHood being difficult. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $8 billion toward high-speed rail and doesn't allow the funds to be spent for any other reason, according to the AP, citing the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

In his Fastlane blog, LaHood argues that high-speed rail will be a job-creation engine, putting skilled Rust Belt workers to work. Project advocates also argue that it means better connectivity between airports and, likely a safer alternative to the Interstate.

What do you think? Are major high-speed rail projects along clogged Interstate corridors worthwhile, or should we just keep adding lanes because it's cheaper?

[Associated Press, via Yahoo]

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Comments (14)
  1. To be clear, light rail and high-speed rail are two different things. This article pertains only to high-speed rail.
    Also--high-speed rail is a necessary technology for America to remain competitive with economies in Europe or Asia. Most western countries and even some developing ones have faster city-to-city travel speeds than America because of their high-speed rail systems.
     
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  2. Rail is actually cheaper per mile than highway. Furthermore what better way to get slow Corolla drivers off the road and out of us enthusiasts' way than to give them an alternative mode of travel?
     
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  3. Good for them. One driver (pun intended) of this country's incredible economic expansion post WWII is mobility. American's who can choose where to go whenever they want allows those people to chase the money. Fixed schedules and destinations don't. The car and the interstate road system get a good deal of credit for enabling this mobility and subsequent economic prosperity. Our roads have remained the same for a generation, while we've added millions of drivers. Its about time we stop the fantasy of public transportation very few actually want, and expand our road system to meet the demands of today and our future.
     
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  4. High speed rail in this country is a boondoggle at best. To achieve the speeds being discussed, the rail will need to be elevated above all road crossings and fenced in to prevent trespassers and animals from getting onto the right-of-way.
    Will you want this huge structure in your backyard?
    Further, there are a finite number of people traveling between cities. If you move them over to high speed rail, what will you do for the airlines that will go out of business or the jobs that will be lost when they reduce flights?
    Lastly, can anyone name a passenger rail service anywhere in the world (high speed or low speed) that doesn't require government subsidy?
    If you look at the total cost of this idea, it doesn't look so appealing.
     
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  5. There was an interesting story about high speed rail on the Marketwatch this morning. High speed rail vs air travel. http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/11/10/am-high-speed-rails-could-ask-planes-and-trains-to-work-together/
     
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  6. High speed rail is an alternative, really, to air travel. If you divide the 8 billion by the 200 million taxpayers out there (Just for the record,I made this figure up and am well aware how suspect dividing the sum equally is) then you arrive a a figure of $40 per taxpayer. I'd gladly pay $40 to avoid airport security these days.
     
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  7. these rail projects just lead to continuous subsidies of minimally useful lines. The closest to a valuable mass transit would be to run monorail along interstate rights of way so that only construction costs are needed, no addition land costs. The monorails can hang right over the road/run down the median.
     
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  8. It is difficult for a car-guy to admit it, but anyone who has traveled to Europe knows that high-speed rail works and has many advantages over highways, including speed, efficiency, the environment, energy dependence, reduces traffic conjestion, etc.
    Give me the same realistic choice that Europeans have, and I'll get onboard. If we could find some way to keep the politicians and lobbists away from the money, it can be a smart investment of our taxes.
     
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  9. High speed rail is entirely too expensive on a "per passenger-mile" basis. The states should not be forced in to paying for things that will be largely unused any more than citizens should be forced to by health insurance.
     
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  10. What a bunch of freaks... It'd be great to support "American mobility" if we were energy sufficient. As it stands now, a large percentage of what you pay for the oil you burn goes to the Saudis and other terrorists and totalitarian regimes. By the same token, the plastic, electronic, pretty much everything else-crap we buy supports the the totalitarian communists. Patton and Eisenhower would really be pissed.
     
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  11. IDIOTS - the road system has easily 100 times the money the rail system has already! EVERY politician cries for clean and more efficient transportation and then makes the totally worse decision. European trains go into the center of towns for helping people move between metro areas - our system is owned by PRIVATE rail service - and is mostly for moving freight to outskirts of towns. WHEN are the politicians - few of them qualified to make city planning decisions - going to allow America to catch up to Europe and japan by rebuilding America's rotting rail system?
     
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  12. Long live the Ohio brain drain, where intelligent people move to places like Portland, OR. A town where one can put their bike on the train and visit towns like Eugene or Seattle for a weekend of pleasure or business. (BTW, there are always people on the train)
    As Proctor & Gamble, Chiquita, and other Ohio international Corporations try to land global talent they will find it very difficult to compete with modern cities and states who have embraced Federal investments in infrastructure. Investment in American rail travel is loooong overdue.
     
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  13. ... some ideas for ya. 'Hairbrained' or 'genius'? The FIRST and foremost costly part of EITHER project is the 'labor' cost involved. Two, I see a virtually 'untapped' labor force out there to aleviate MUCH of the cost, and/or make these projects MUCH CHEAPER for America to accomplish. As long as the NAACP/ACLU keeps their noses out of it (which they wont undoubtedly), I would put forth the 'idea' to clean out our prisons and use our 'stable' convicts as a 'labor force' to rebuild America's bridges, highways, and railways. The cost effectiveness would be tremendous! It would give these people 'something to do' besides take up 'space' and let them earn their 'stipend' they get each hour, day, whatever... Now I know this 'idea' is just an 'idea', and looks good in theory, but think of its USE to US. It would GET IT DONE with wayyyyy less tax dollars. Think of it as the "New Chain Gain". There would have to be a LOT of 'accountability' in 'correction' and enforcement, but it would work! I say, If they dont want to work for their... whatever (wage), then off to the 'front lines' in Afghanistan they go in the line of fire and in harms way. I bet theyd find 'him'? They dont conform to the laws, they dont live if they come back alive, and 'capital punishment is then served. Jails/prisons would soon empty. (Unlimited untapped labor force) = Our Prisoners. Plain and simple. now I guess the ACLU will be responding.
     
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  14. i believe the government sabotaged my fight against forrest griffin because everyone knows i suck at mma and forest was even taking it easy on me but i still lost. :(
     
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