Despite going "0-fer" over the past few months in national articles and blogs speculating on who would get ARRA HSR funding, the NW Amtrak Cascades corridor received $598 million ($590 for WA state). That's the third highest amount for a discrete corridor, and 5th or 7th according to other measures.

There's local coverage (here, here and here), and positive coverage (here and here). (Negative coverage below.)

The Columbian boils down the criticism and response to the ARRA High Speed Rail program:
"Critics can be expected to assail the grant on two fronts: their disagreement with federal stimulus spending and their belief that rail travel is a waste of money. To the first complaint, the logical response is that this region and this state have two choices on federal stimulus spending: compete and accept projects and improvements, or sit on the sidelines in protest while other areas of the nation benefit. The rail-improvement horse is out of the barn, that’s reality, and it’s good to see the Northwest becoming a player instead of a spectator.

As for the feasibility of rail travel, yes, there is a public subsidy. But that exists in all forms of transportation. And, according to state Department of Transportation statistics published in a 2007 Columbian editorial, Amtrak in Washington compares favorably with public bus systems when subsidies are compared on a per-passenger-mile-traveled basis. The average Amtrak ride in the state is 145 miles, with a public subsidy of 22 cents per passenger mile. Subsidies in public bus systems range from 70 cents to $1 per passenger mile."
Some conservatives support rail and mass transit, notes The Seattle Weekly in "The Conservative Case for High Speed Rail." This refers to a book ("Moving Minds; Conservatives and Public Transportation") co-authored by Paul Weyrich, "co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, and one of the most significant conservative activists and commentators of modern times."

A reviewer summarizes:
"[T]he book's central argument to conservatives is that America's current transportation system -- and the destruction of mass transit -- was by no means the product of free market forces. Instead, our current transportation status was the result of heavy governmental intervention in favor of the automobile. So the next time you're stuck in traffic, keep in mind that an "invisible hand" was not responsible for driving you off this cliff (or into rush hour traffic). This was the doing of a very visible hand – the hand of government."
Other conservatives oppose the ARRA High Speed Rail program. Rep. John Mica was critical of the grant awards to his state of Florida (while positive about the grant program), though earlier he seemed pleased about the prospect of receiving funds.

Closer to home, the Washington Policy Center criticized the program, saying "This [ARRA] money is not to build a high-speed rail system between Portland and Seattle." However, most of the funding is likely to go toward projects that are necessary, and lay the groundwork for, increasing train speed in the future. (We haven't seen the official approved project list from FRA yet.) And it should be noted, the ARRA High Speed Rail program had two elements: the development of new high speed rail corridors, and the improvement to existing intercity passenger rail services (the latter point getting little attention from press or critics).

Posted On 1/29/2010 01:26:00 PM by Larry Ehl |

edit post
0 Response to '$590 Million to WSDOT for High Speed Rail'

Post a Comment