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The High-Speed Case for State Control of Transportation Funding

Posted By Conn Carroll On November 11, 2010 @ 2:00 pm In First Principles | Comments Disabled

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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 [2], 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 [3] 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 [4] for the 112th Congress should be to Re-embrace Federalism [5].


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URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/11/11/the-high-speed-case-for-state-control-of-transportation-funding/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.foundry.org/wp-content/uploads/DeptOfTransportation-Seal.svg_.png

[2] obtained by Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A94T120101110

[3] written extensively: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/03/America-s-Coming-High-Speed-Rail-Financial-Disaster

[4] Solutions for America: http://www.heritage.org/research/projects/solutions-for-america

[5] Re-embrace Federalism: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/08/Re-embracing-Federalism

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