High Speed Rail — Yet Another Epic Fail

I would say that life support is a fairly optimistic view:

Advocates were ecstatic when President Obama had $8 billion for high speed rail put into the stimulus bill. His administration planned to make HSR one of the cornerstones of its infrastructure investment program. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood visited Europe to check out HSR there in person and came back proclaiming, “High speed rail is coming to America.” The $8 billion, we were told, was a down payment, and that in little more than two decades, America’s largest cities would be linked by a web of high speed trains.

But as it turns out, a series of snafus and reversals has left Obama’s HSR agenda on life support. [MRH — SNAFU is a great description of the entire Obama Administration — Situation Normal All Fucked Up.]

First is the public perception of the failure of the stimulus bill. Unemployment never came down to projected levels. Spending largely went to keep state and local government workers already employed, not towards infrastructure or new jobs. Obama has since admitted he was mistaken to believe there were such things as “shovel ready” projects for even roads, much less a complex undertaking like high speed rail. [MRH — Wouldn’t have been nice for the media to question the wisdom of electing someone who has never held a real job President before the 2008 election?]

But more importantly, rather than put that $8 billion towards focused projects that would really advance the ball of high speed rail in America, it was peanut butter spread across a large number of projects around the country, ultimately not driving significant improvements. This feeds the perception of $8 billion that just went “poof.” [MRH — In other words, it was a colossal waste of money from the start.]

At the same time, the federal deficit ballooned to $1.5 trillion and the national debt to an astounding $14 trillion. Virtually all parties agree on the need to address our massive structural deficit. [MRH — I don’t actually think this is the case for Democrats; they are just pretending to address the deficit as a means to increase taxes and spend more money, but let’s not quibble.] 

The Tea Party focused on a hodge podge of issues, but primarily on reducing government spending. The movement grew to prominence and fueled a Republican comeback in the 2010 elections. In this environment, getting anything done will be difficult, and especially funding items like HSR that are easy to characterize as frivolous and favoring just a few urban regions. [MRH– That’s because it is frivolous and does favor just a few uban regions; that is not a characterization, but a fact.]

* * *

But beyond those philosophically opposed to HSR, some high speed rail advocates have done themselves no favors either. They’ve resolutely backed pretty much any and every rail project regardless of whether it is potentially useful or an outright boondoggle. They’ve engaged in false advertising by labeling 110 MPH peak speeds as “high speed rail” instead of what it really is:Amtrak on steroids.  [MRH — A pretty apt comparison, since high speed rail would require Amtrak-like subsidies on steroids.  Forever.]

High speed rail in the United States is a boondoggle.  Nothing more.  Just ask yourself this — If you were to take the train from, say, Los Angeles to San Diego, or from Portland to Seattle, or from Denver to Albuquerque, what would you do once you got there?  Good thing we pissed Billions down this particular rat-hole.

Query: Has the Obama Administration gotten anything right?  Seriously, what?

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Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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