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Night Train: Losing HSR Battles while Winning the Transport War

by BruceMcF Wed Nov 17th, 2010 at 05:22:59 PM EST

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

Hoping the autumn frost doesn't kill the seeds before they sprout.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 17th, 2010 at 05:24:18 PM EST
Let's hope it's not a winter hard freeze instead.  I think we've got a bad few years ahead.
by FoolsErrand on Thu Nov 18th, 2010 at 04:28:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, some of the money could be used on a Little Rock to Dallas line, or a Memphis to Dallas line. This would be especially useful were some of the money spent on the Dallas to San Antonio line. Another path that surely needs improvement is the St. Louis to Walnut Grove to Little Rock segment. From St. Louis it carries on to Chicago. Add in a Dallas to Houston segment and we have Chicago to Houston.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Nov 18th, 2010 at 08:01:02 PM EST
This link for the Michigan $830m application was the Transport Politic roundup of the ARRA corridor level HSR grants.

This is the money being handed back, so the quickest turn-around in getting ground broken is asking which states still stand behind their applications and just start the assessment process from where it left off when it ran out of funds to disburse.

If California is given anything Florida does not want, from the amount that was awarded to Express HSR, the Rapid Rail HSR corridor tier applications ((either at or working toward) were:

  • Georgia $472m, Atlanta/Macon
  • Illinois $550m, Chicago/STL, funded
  • Kansas $10m
  • Michigan, $830m, Detroit / Chicago ($40m, elsewhere )
  • New York, $7.9b, Albany / Rochester / Niagara Falls
  • North Carolina, $3.9b, Charlotte/Richmond ($630m w/Virginia)
  • Ohio $564m, $400m funded, $375m certain to be handed back
  • Oklahoma, $2b, Tulsa / OK City / Texas State Line
  • Pennsylvania, $3.9b, Phillie/Harribsurg, Lackawana Cutoff, Pittsburgh maglev
  • Virginia, $1.75b, DC / Richmond / Petersburg ($620m w/NC)
  • Washington, $850m, Portland / Seattle / Canadian Border
  • Wisconsin $652m Madison/Milwaukee, funded, announced to be turned back

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 18th, 2010 at 09:06:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We California HSR backers are hungrily eyeing this money. So far our two Senators, our outgoing governor, and half our House delegation have written to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to say "we'll take the money if WI, OH, and/or FL give it up."

I hope the money stays where it is, but if the Republicans give it up, it would be good to send it here. We'll make good use of it, building HSR infrastructure in the Central Valley that will act as the backbone of the system.

We'll need it, because I don't think we're winning the overall transport war. The US is in the opening stages of its "one last fling" with the right. This will last another 4-5 years, and as it's predicated largely on the right's promise to never ever abandon the 20th century, no matter the cost or the lack of cheap oil, it's doomed to end in catastrophic failure.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Nov 18th, 2010 at 08:23:28 PM EST
So if Florida gives its money back, I think it ought to all go to California.

Let's see if Montereyan disagrees.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Nov 18th, 2010 at 08:30:45 PM EST
... he had already disagreed. He wants it all ;)

Of course, as an advocate for the CA-HSR in particular (though not necessarily for everything done by the CHSRA), that's not surprising.

I still say that if Florida, as the other Express HSR system, wants to give its money back, it should go straight to California, and at an 80:20 match rather than the excessive 50:50 match promised by the Governator.

But if Emerging HSR money is given back, at least some of it should go to bringing one of the other Emerging HSR to 110mph operation.

After several sleeps on it, maybe The Cascade Corridor (Washington/Oregon), the Wolverine (Chicago/Michigan), and the DC/Richmond leg of the Carolinian.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Nov 19th, 2010 at 01:56:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First, really liked the media Piece you included- fits perfectly with my life's memories of growing up outside and inside Columbus.
Second, I read your website back a while to get up to speed, and it's hard not to remark on the historic ability of my fellow Ohioans to attach themselves to regressive policy machines going nowhere. I remember well all the years of Gov. Jimmy Rhodes' jerking the wheel in an attempt to put the ship of state on the reefs of his political hatreds. He did, too.
I admire your courage.

Yet I still marvel, I shake my head in amazement, in the case of 3C and all that federal dough.

Seemed such a good opportunity, and--my God, to give back such a handsome piece of change when so many state coffers everywhere are in such dire straights! It seems that the Republican party (or it's financiers) has enforced some absolutely incredible discipline on several states' governors.

Do you think this crash-and-burn is triggered by auto-road interests protecting their turf by buying the new governor(s)?

Is it more the Republican/ Ohio conservatives' desire to see ANYTHING done by Obama fail? Even at the cost of seriously hurting the national interest?

Or perhaps rejection of something that smacks of Europeanism (as Eric Cantor said clearly recently in the Senate, about another program)?

Could it be perhaps that Obama is now seen as likely a one-term president, and to attach yourself to long-term policy that will simply be eradicated in another couple years is unwise? Carter's wonderful Carribbean Basin Initiative suffered the same abandonment and for some of the same reasons.

Or is it that long, bitter strain of racism and self-destructive nihilism (they do go together) that seems to me so deeply embedded in the American Midwest zeitgeist?

What do you think now?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Nov 20th, 2010 at 10:39:16 PM EST

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