published Monday, August 1st, 2011

High-speed train to bankruptcy

It is almost impossible to believe in a time of back-breaking federal debt, but Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama will not give up on plans to funnel tens of billions of tax dollars into unaffordable high-speed rail projects.

California is hoping for $19 billion from Washington to fund a big part of its plan to have "bullet trains" linking various regions of the state. And the president wants total federal spending of $53 billion over the next six years for high-speed rail. But, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted recently, the president does not say where he hopes to find that money.

Still, California and some other states keep pushing for what they see as their share of federal funds for costly trains.

"It's not something we can do alone," a spokesman for California Gov. Jerry Brown told the San Francisco newspaper.

But why should taxpayers in other parts of the country have to pay for California's trains -- particularly when there's little guarantee that the trains would be a financial success? Federally funded Amtrak has lost money hand over fist for decades, after all.

The multibillion-dollar project in California is "a huge risk and probably will lose a lot of money," said Alain Enthoven, a professor emeritus of public and private management at Stanford University. "In our current fiscal straits, both federal and state, we just don't have the money to spend on that ... ."

We certainly don't, but many in Washington haven't figured that out yet.

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dfclapp said...

High speed rail makes better economic sense than most federal expenditures by reducing commuter/fuel costs, something else that other industrialized nations have done better than us for decades. Our transportation infrastructure is in shambles, and there are no easy cheap answers. More reasonalbe commuting options mean fewer cars on the roads. What bright ideas do you have for reducing dependency on foreign oil?

August 1, 2011 at 5:46 a.m.
EaTn said...

All the rest of the major countries in the world have depended on rail and are modernizing their rail system even more. With our congested and deteriorating airports and highways and dependence on foreign oil, upgraded rail makes total sense. But the issue is mute since our legislation is determined to set us back fifty years in all accord.

August 1, 2011 at 6:24 a.m.
EaTn said...

If major airports and interstate highways make corporate economic sense, the private sector would already have built them also.

August 1, 2011 at 8:45 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Petroleum Man will go extinct during this century. If we are to have any transportation at all, rail is our best hope. Plane and auto traffic will become rare.

Those who try to hold on to what cannot continue will be ill-prepared for humanity's future.

August 1, 2011 at 9:23 a.m.
LibDem said...

These high-speed rail constructions give employment to middle class blue collars. Conservatives and Libertarians have to be furious. They could be funded with the profits from the interstate system.

August 1, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
Livn4life said...

Wow I continue to be underwhelmed at the utter division of people on this site and across the nation. Why should we even be looking at new costly programs when we have so much debt that is not now nor will be funded? We just raise the debt ceiling and keep spending. What bright ideas on reducing dependency on foreign oil? How about drilling in areas we now have with plenty of oil? Oh, we can't do that because it opposes someone's voter base. I get it!

August 1, 2011 at 10:25 a.m.
nucanuck said...

No L4l, you don't get it! When the energy return on energy invested gets low enough, it doesn't matter how much petroleum in various forms is left in the ground. That's the game changer that Petroleum Man refuses to see and that is why he will go extinct. He will be succeeded by what Mike Ruppert calls Post Petroleum Man, who through awareness, made the preperations necessary for the continuation of the species.

Fight it if you wish, but Petroleum Man is a goner.

August 1, 2011 at 11:17 a.m.
nucanuck said...

L4F, trains are able to move people and frieght with far less energy than highways and air travel. We are near a point where oil will be rationed by price. The demand from developing countries will push the world past its production capability over the next few years.

The American love affair with the automobile will end because it has to, not because any of us want it to. If we don't prepare for what is inevitable, the transition will be that much more difficult. Denial will not serve us well.

Railroads = more efficient travel.

August 1, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.
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