Monday, August 17, 2009

$8B For HSR

$8B for HSR? Well that is shorthand for the $8 Billion appropriation included within the ARRA '09, or Stimulus legislation, for the development of High Speed passenger rail service throughout the land. The enacted legislation provides that the funds will be allocated to the States in a "revenue sharing" model so that no region, especially the Northeast, will have a disproportionate share of the funding.

Many a state has submitted applications and to such extent that the funding will likely yield little benefit beyond throwing some "consultant feed" into the troughs at which they "chow down". That is the unfortunate thing.

While it is my firm conviction that there is a need for rail passenger service in the 21st century, that need is where there are people traveling "en masse', i.e. mass transportation, and in which addition to other facilities such as another four lanes to the NJ Turnpike or Garden State and a "twin span' for the George Washington Bridge, would be far more costly to both pocketbooks and society. Development of these Corridors need not be limited to the Northeast and Southern California, but being pragmatic, that is where the people are and where there is greater likelihood of passenger rail transport development obviating, or at least slowing down, the need for other more costly highway and airway infrastructure.

Projects such as Kansas has applied for to provide track improvements for a proposed Kansas City-Oklahoma City route (a continuation of the existing OKC-Ft Worth Heartland Flyer) have to be questioned. But then, volks, this is how the game is played - spread the largess about the land!!!

While that $8B could make meaningful improvements to the Northeast Corridor, and even to Southern California services, it appears that the $8B is going to end up a 'Bridge to Nowhere"; sorry such will likely be the case.

3 comments:

  1. Just as an aside, I read that the total dollar amount of all the requests for funds under this appropriation totalled over $100 billion. I'm glad I don't have the job of figuring out how to parcel out the $8B.

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  2. One of the issues that has plagued the development of rail in the U.S. since Amtrak's inception is that the national network was designed around where the population was, rather than where it was heading.

    So, corridors like NY-Buffalo and Chicago-Detroit were included while nothing was developed in the Sunbelt like Houston-Dallas/Fort Worth or Phoenix-Los Angeles.

    I hope planners take demographic and population migration trends into account as they decide where to spend the money.

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  3. Amtrak was asked to endorse (or not) the 250 or so applications. Only 42 have been endorsed by Amtrak. It's not Amtrak that's making the decision (it's the FRA), but that has to mean something.

    The FRA has a long history with railroads. They know which proposals are bogus or dressed up commuter train projects or nothing but consultant feed.

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