Night Train: Losing HSR Battles while Winning the Transport War

(11AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last week I raised the certainty that Kasich will return $375m of Ohio’s $400m grant for laying the 110mph 3C corridor track and running 79mph trains on them … and the likelihood that Wisconsin’s Governor-elect Jobs Walkabout will return all or most of Wisconsin’s $810m for the Milwaukee to Madison Emerging HSR corridor.

Thing is, even if the opponents of HSR killed two (or, see inside, three): they had to kill them all. Every HSR line that gets finished will undermine their case, and raise intra-regional and inter-regional jealousies as a force ensuring that HSR funding is provided at the Federal level and matching funds are raised at the state level.

Money Greasing the Wheels of Teh Stupid

Just today, I read that Governor Jobs Walkabout was a big recipient of road lobby money during the campaign, so after conning them into thinking that the $810m could be shifted into Wisconsin roads, the fact that its not possible, that another state gets the money, that Talgo may leave the state after its current contracts are finished … that is being used to try to reverse his decision.

I do not have high hopes that he will reverse himself, but the stronger the fight against him, the greater the prospect of getting the connection between Rapid Rail HSR corridors and jobs implanted into people’s minds. And it might result in a push to get some of the funds spent on the Hiawatha line to Chicago.

And the status of the Express High Speed Rail project in Florida ~ the Express HSR system that would have been completed before a prospective second Obama term could finish ~ seems to be up in the air: Despite “Cloud of Uncertainty,” FDOT, Contractors Prepare to Move Ahead on HSR.

So it could be that three of the HSR projects that have been funded out of the stimulus money will bite the dust. However, barring a change in law (unlikely to get through a Democratic Senate and signed by the White House that got the $8b of Transport Stimulus dedicated to HSR in the first place) … that money does not go away. It goes to some other state that wants to use it.

Of course, RepubliCorp has control of the House of Representatives, and with it the purse strings, for the next two years, and even if there is a HSR authorization in a lame duck transportation bill … that money is not going to get appropriated for two years. But as long as some corridors get finished, and the demonstration effect starts to take hold, the tide will turn back.

Where Should the Republican Rejection Money Be Recycled?

For my part, as a Buckeye, where I want the $375m 3C Quickstart Design Money to go is to the Wolverine Line in Michigan. Michigan applied for $830m in the round of funding that saw Ohio awarded $400m, while Michigan only got $40m. Then when $2.5b of money requiring at least a 20% state match was available, Michigan applied for $385m in projects, with a Federal contribution of $308m.

Well, give them Ohio’s money. Nothing will do more to ensure that there is not “missing link” between the Eastern Seaboard HSR systems and the Midwestern HSR systems than the former Ohio money ending up in Michigan. Heck, since its ARRA money, which is allowed to be no-match, give them the $308m they asked for, and as much of the matching cost as the Ohio decision allows.

As for the Wisconsin $810m (it might only be $740m, if the Governor is clever enough to figure out a way to hold onto the $70m to be spent on the Hiawatha corridor), I’d say start by putting it at the other end of the Empire Builder line, in the Pacific Northwest. Washington applied for $850m for the Portland/Seattle/Vancouver line, and got $590m, so $260m could go to the Cascade Corridor.

That leaves $550m. First, ask Georgia if they still want the full $472m capital cost of their Atlanta to Macon line, and if the State Legislature is willing to guarantee operating costs, give it to them. That spreads the projects east to west and north to south across the country.

Now, if the Tea Baggers scare them from taking the money, then it’ll have to go somewhere else. Someone is sure to want it, of course, but a southern project would be a fine thing to have as part of it.

If anything is left over, there are lots of individual projects included in the applications for the $8b … there shouldn’t be any trouble sorting out the smaller individual grant request, selecting the most shovel, and then awarding the balance to the best bang for the buck individual projects (excluding, of course, states that say they don’t want the money after all).

What about the California HSR System?

I figure that the Express HSR corridor money was split between Florida and California, both in the $8b in ARRA funding and in the $2.5b of annual transport funding. So if Florida gives its money back, I think it ought to all go to California. Indeed, Florida should be told that up front: they got the largest chunk of Express HSR funds, and if they don’t want it, the other Express HSR applicant, which promised 50:50 matching funds to boot, they get it.

Anyway, that’s my re-allocation …

… but the key thing is, there still are rail projects going ahead, and as long as some get finished, the demonstration effect is going to take hold. Even if it is a dry two years for further HSR funding … as long as that two years is spent building systems, it will not be an unproductive two years.

So, what’s your re-allocation?

Midnight Oil ~ Truganini

3 comments

    • BruceMcF on November 17, 2010 at 1:03 am
      Author

    … just hope that the nightly frosts don’t stop the comment seed from growing …

    • RUKind on November 18, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Self-imposed stupidity is the Republican Way. When the oil runs out sooner rather than later we’ll still have electricity by other means. HSR runs on electricity. Cars don’t.

    Boston is a classic example of expanded transportation blossoming into economic opportunity. Back in the day we had Route 128 – America’s Technology Highway. It formed the model for Silicon Valley when it used to be fruit tree valley.

    Now we have the Acela. It’s a beautiful train. Once we got our old rail restored south of Boston our home and land prices jumped 20%. And that was just commuter rail. every day I’d get off the train At South Station right next to the Acela.

    Nice, reliable HSR (by American standards) down the heaviest corridor.

    Best thing of  all – nobody grabs your junk before you get on and it’s just as convenient as flying if not more so.

    These ignorant Republican clowns are cutting off their noses to spite the people and economies of their states.

    The more progressive Northeast will emerge as the economic benefactor. Fine by me.

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