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  • Obama's High-Speed Spending on Slow-Speed Rail

    Want a fast way to blow some taxpayer dollars? Buy a ticket on President Barack Obama’s high-speed spending trains.

    High-speed rail is one of the president’s pie-in-the-sky green energy dreams, which would do little to relieve Americans who are suffering the effects of high gasoline prices.

    The president reaffirmed his commitment to high-speed rail in grand fashion this week with the announcement of $2.02 billion in funding for 22 projects in 15 states. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the cash will “[bring] President Obama’s vision of American high-speed rail one step closer to reality.” The president really has to be dreaming, though, if he thinks this money will actually go toward “high-speed rail.”

    In reality, no high-speed trains—those that travel at 150 mph or more—will be constructed. The money is going to subsidize freight railroads and slow-speed Amtrak trains. (In Ohio, Amtrak averages 39 mph, slower than Ford’s Model T.)

    Some dreams are better left unrealized, anyhow. Heritage’s Ronald Utt details some serious problems with high-speed rail, including  high cost, the need for perpetual government subsidies, and wasted money from lack of ridership. Add that to false claims that the projects create jobs and empty promises that the trains will help the environment by getting cars off the road, and America has plenty of reasons not to get on board.

    California provides a perfect example. Greg Pollowitz at National Review Online writes that the day after the federal government granted the Golden State $300 million for high-speed rail, the independent agency overseeing the state’s high-speed infrastructure spending shot down the project, calling for it to be put on hold due to questions over funding and project management. The rail plan has been estimated to cost $43 billion—and to date, the state has only $6.3 billion in place ($3.5 billion of that is federal dollars). The Orange County Register reports that those costs are going even higher, and an independent estimate pegs it at $81.4 billion.

    But this isn’t news. California’s high-speed rail project has met with criticism before. In December, the Los Angeles Times reported that just one segment of the track, costing $4.15 billion, would essentially be a “train to nowhere.”

    The Midwest has a story of its own: the Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak line upgrade. The lowlights include $200 million in federal funding, dubious claims about how fast the train will go, and an incredibly low ridership. The Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole writes in The Detroit News’ Michigan View:

    When Transportation Secretary LaHood announced this week that he was awarding Michigan nearly $200 million for high-speed rail, he claimed that the project would bring “trains up to speeds of 110 mph on a 235-mile section of the Chicago to Detroit corridor, reducing trip times by 30 minutes.” But Michigan’s own grant application says it will increase average speeds from only 60 to 64 mph with the top speed remaining unchanged at 79 mph. That is, travelers will save a mere 12 minutes. And it’s still faster to drive.

    On top of that, the system would never be sustainable without federal spending. And the $200 million the taxpayers are shelling out is just a down payment. O’Toole writes:

    Michigan’s 2009 Chicago-Detroit rail plan projected costs of more than $1.3 billion, of which the state has less than $400 million so far. So bringing the tracks up to 110-mph standards will cost at least $900 million more.

    The high cost of the projects comes as America faces a $14.3 trillion debt, and states face a $1.26 trillion budget shortfall. Americans are being asked to subsidize programs that benefit very few people. How is that a top national priority?

    The Obama Administration maintains that infrastructure spending creates jobs and is a great stimulus, but Associated Press and Congressional Research Service reports show that it does not. In fact, it can even have a negative effect. As for the environmental argument—that high-speed trains will get people off the streets and into mass transit—the reality is much different. Heritage’s Kate Nix writes:

    Despite its cost, high-speed rail will be ineffective at achieving its goals, if Europe’s experiences are any indicator. High-speed rail is expected to reduce auto and air travel, but in Europe, the trend is actually the opposite: Despite huge government subsidies, travelers are opting more and more to take non-subsidized and less expensive forms of travel.

    High-cost projects that don’t reap any rewards? The better choice would be to let this train pass by.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to Obama's High-Speed Spending on Slow-Speed Rail

    1. Ron - Sacramento says:

      Hey, Government, STOP spending more than you take in! Help me understand why you can't understand this basic principle. (Must be because you choose not to)

      Time to take the checkbook away and freeze the credit cards in ice.

    2. Norma Killam,Florida says:

      I am so greatful that the new governor of Florida,Gov.Rick Scott,rejected the money offered for a high speed rail here.He saw it as a big money pit and from everything I've read,he's absolutely correct.Go Gov.Scott.

    3. Pingback: Energy and Environment News

    4. Bobbie says:

      Let the market conduct the business. Not tax dollars!

      Why the rush to build more targets for terrorists? No thanks! Stop Obama's craze.

    5. Bobbie says:

      Lift the business regulations and the moratorium. Lets do what we can with what we can, MR. President. Mr. President, here's another thing we can do. Reduce or eliminate the gas tax on all levels. Yes We Can! We can get rid of all those programs that condescend our individual abilities. We can take direction on our own without holding hands. Yes, we can do alot MR. President, if you would see us and respect us as free people and take your burdens off us.

    6. Bud, Memphis TN says:

      The government needs to stay out of any project that would require profitability. Leave it to private enterprise. If it is feasible, someone will figure this


    7. Pingback: Daily News May 12, 2011

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    9. Tim AZ says:

      If one truly wants to understand how this high speed spending qualifies as a top priority for the regime. You must first start from the mindset of the regime and forget about your own mindset as to what is good for America. In the minds of the regime far too many Americans are not willing to make the correct decisions in their daily lives. The regime also realizes that a free economy has allowed too many Americans to gain enough wealth to make daily decisions that are extremely offensive to liberal sensibilities. there for they must assume that they are smarter than you, and as such they must make your every decision for you. How do they reach this goal? Simply by creating an economic collapse through high speed spending in every way possible to overwhelm the free market system. The problem is that no one knows exactly how much spending is required to overwhelm the capitalist system. The race is on to expand govt. and increase spending to the point that an economic recovery is impossible to achieve. Upon collapse the regime will then offer hope through socialism. When the citizenry has expended all their personal wealth and accepts the regimes offer to help. The American citizenry will comply with every demand of the regime or they will not receive a ration or shelter. this will eventually lead to communism because there are always a percentage that will resist and they must be eliminated so as not to contaminate the domesticated segment of their socialist society with the idea of free thought and self actualization. Had enough yet?

    10. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Mike, you would just as well pile up money and burn it in the streets! The Demo-crats have no intention of making anything better in America! I mean that most sincerely! Remember the Monorail? That was cheap, quick transportation that was perfectly suited to local transportation needs! Trouble is, it would have worked too cheap! Not any money to steal for the Democrats, not enough money wasted to help the Demo-crats in their Kloward Piven scheme! (To bring the American Economy down!) The secret to understanding Obama Spending is to know it was intended to WASTE money! So High Speed Rail is perfect, you could waste Billions of Dollars and (bonus) Pay Off General Electric Corporation! "Gee! Thanks GE for supporting the Captive Media and helping to get Obama Elected!"

      In the Demo-crat 'American' Dream we don't have any cars! We don't have any gas! So, yes, we would need High Speed Rail, but that is because the Demo-crats brought down the American Airlines Industry! Aw! The poor Democrats! So badly misunderstood! We just can't see how important High Speed Rail is going to be AFTER the Collapse! No! We can't appreciate it, we are dumb hicks with old fashioned ideas about Liberty and the Constitution! We cling to God and our guns! If Obama gets his way we will need our guns far more than High Speed Rail!

    11. MDcomments, Baltimor says:

      I for one am tired of driving, traffic jams, and paying for wars. (hundreds of billions)

      The rail would be faster if it was funded like the Eisehower's highway system instead it gets dribs and drabs of money and yes a billion is a dribble in the context of a huge infrastructure project.

      It is not like the highway system isn't getting a giant subsidy. I am ready to get on the train, pop open my ipad and relax.

    12. OhioHistorian says:

      Obama is no visionary. He is a partisan hack who is willing to spend on any union-promoting job in the country. This "vision" would go away if we were to use non-union labor both building and operating. In fact, the studies I have seen from Europe say that if all of the energy usage is factored in, there is little to no savings. Of course, as he pushes energy costs higher, maybe he thinks that the mass transit will become more efficient. Not. Just more union workers hired, just like toll collectors on the Ohio Turnpike.

    13. Walter Boatwright says:

      High Speed Rail what a joke !!!! The biggest problem is the morons in charge .Lawyers ,Tree huggers and their likes are in charge of a non-functional idea. Functional use of human transportation by fast rail speed is indeed plausible.

      BUT with the amount of B.S. ( bureaucratic Feces ) and red tape ,nothing will work .Look at Amtrak ( derailed ) and its use of privately maintained track in most states are also used by freight trains . Most of the high speed corridors could use abandoned rail lines as a way to offer some feasible speed increase without delays and line shut down ,due to other freight traffic operations or derailments.And traffic speed reduced by state and local interference of rail traffic. As small government interference has also increased freight prices along with Big Government in the Oil Business.

      • Colin says:

        The reason that Amtrak and freight companies use the same rails is that the rail is simply vanishing. While I can't speak for the whole country, here on the west coast, abandoned lines are hardly usable due to disrepair, vandalism, and theft. The double track lines that existed in the 50's have been all but stripped down to single track. I'm not so sure about your theory on line speed being the fault of state and local interference; when was the last time you saw a train wait for something besides another train? Rebuilding the old double track lines and laying new rail would solve congestion issues in a snap.

    14. Sharon, Las Vegas says:

      More money to more unions ! The BO here is easily explained. Even a chimp is smart enough to follow examples, such as . . . . A college professor bribes a graduate student with blessed recommendations for future employment if he just shows up and plays the tapes he made last year to this years classes. Professor games the system and students follow the example by bribing another student to show up in his place for attendance purposes. Bribes another to do his homework and eventually his thesis, bar exam, etc.

      Pi$$ poor work ethic and immoral as all get out, but that's what our government controlled educational system promotes.

      As long as America's citizens allow the continuation along this path politicians like the big BO will prosper while the middle class will get destroyed.

      • Colin says:

        Woah. I don't know if you actually believe this to be true, but having been through the state university system, I can assure you that your "example" is nothing short of absurd. No one gets into politics without some measure of hard work and intelligence, regardless of their personal goals and ideals.

    15. Concerned, Mequon WI says:

      I think someone should actually publish how unprofitable the train systems are. Most – if not all – operate in the red. Showing the public what a wate of money these trains are would really open everyone's eyes and perhaps more would refuse the money. Our debt ceiling is at the max and this administration still wants to spend. Keep it for another day when people are working and the economy is robust…then talk about trains!

    16. Joe says:

      Government expansion of high-speed rail will just be another multi-billion grave of taxpayer $$$.

      Look how popular the PRIVATE intercity bus companies have become. The Boltbus (boltbus.com), Megabus (megabus.com) and Vamoose (vamoosebus.com) revolution in the NYC-DC corridor is a great example on how (yes, private!) for-profit entities re-developed the old “coach bus” into a supermodel of economical, high-quality intercity transportation.

      How about converting Amtrak into a Moosetrak or Boltrak…? Time will tell!

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