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  • The High-Speed Case for State Control of Transportation Funding

    The Obama administration is still in denial about the message the American people sent Washington last Tuesday. In letters to Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich and Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker, obtained by Reuters, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood threatened to take away stimulus money from the states unless they used it for President Barack Obama’s high-speed rail plans. LaHood wrote:

    I respect the authority of governors to make decisions for their states. If, however, you choose not to participate in the program, we would like to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Ohio’s involvement in the project so that we do not waste taxpayers’ money.

    There is only one waste of money going on here and that is President Obama’s high speed rail plans. Heritage fellow Ron Utt has written extensively on why high-speed rail is such a financial disaster:

    In 2008, Amtrak’s inspector general published an analysis of government subsidies to passenger rail in Europe and compared them to Amtrak’s subsidies. One purpose of the review was to address the contention that passenger rail in other countries, especially HSR, operates at a profit (i.e., without subsidies). For 1995-2006, the study found that the governments of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Denmark, and Austria spent “a combined total of $42 billion annually on their national passenger railroads.” The $42 billion that these six countries, which have a combined population of 269 million, spent on just passenger rail in 2006is roughly proportionate to the $54.8 billion (most of which was funded by user fees) that the government of the United States (population of 309 million) spent on all forms of transportation, including highways, rail, aviation, water transport, and mass transit.

    To put the European commitment to passenger rail in perspective, rail ridership (high speed, conventional intercity, and metropolitan commuter rail) in these six countries accounted for just 7.9 percent of all surface transportation modes on a per passenger, per billion kilometer basis. This suggests that these countries received a poor return on their money given that more than 90 percent of passengers in these countries chose other travel modes– mostly auto–despite the subsidies.

    States should not have their transportation funding priorities dictated to them by the federal government. That is why one of the top Solutions for America for the 112th Congress should be to Re-embrace Federalism.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to The High-Speed Case for State Control of Transportation Funding

    1. David, Omaha, NE says:

      Actually, the federal goverment has control over a state's ability to obtain federal transportation funding in various ways. These include seatbelt laws, drinking age laws, etc. If Ohio and Wisconsin choose not to participate in high speed rail, then their funds should be returned to the federal goverment to be distributed to states that are moving forward on HSR projects.

    2. Bobbie says:

      Mass transportation only invites mass terroristic attacks. Send the money back and mandate the feds give the money back to the tax payers, so for sure it won't be wasted or used for potential killings.

    3. Jibreel Riley, Colum says:

      I don't believe you however I also don't buy into the HSR panacea either but what makes me a supporter of any of these projects is the fact I'm thinking 50 years from now, not till the next election. Every argument I hear comes off sounding like people whom cant think beyond there subdivisions. These are also the same people whom think going to "the Big City" equals "I'm going to get mugged." Roads, well how wide must our highways get? What does it mean to really have a "Center City?" For too long America has passed the buck on these issues. Some people drive, fly when they can and never used Greyhound since college. These are the same people whom could defund local public transit then wondering why there is no one to pour there coffee at work. This anti-rail stands needs to stop, we should be smarter than this!

    4. Paul, Felton says:

      I agree 100% to return to fundamental federalism and full constitutional rights to each of the several states.

      Care must be exercised in returning federal programs to state, to protect state's interest and accompanying program revenue.

      But first, something must be done to remove sitting activist-judges who follow their personal ideological agenda and not the U.S. Constitution.

      Consideration of foreign laws by judges should be grounds for removal from office.

      I believe all blatant violation of oath of office to support and uphold the U.S. Constitution from enemies foreign and DOMESTIC, should result in removal from office, all three branches of government.

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