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Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden — the country’s most famous Amtrak rider — announced that President Obama wants to spend $53 billion on high-speed rail over the next six years. The Obama administration says doing so will improve transportation and create jobs.
Heartland’s Budget & Tax News derails the president’s thinking with a piece by Wendell Cox titled “High-Speed Rail ‘Low Ball Express’ Raises Taxpayer Concerns.” (Cox is Heartland’s senior fellow in urban growth and transit policy.)
“You know something is up when a Washington Post editorial advises the Obama administration to do a ‘reality check’ on its plans for high-speed rail. From the beginning it included more slow-speed than high-speed rail, and now both components of the plan could be in trouble.”
The Post editorial noted that Wisconsin and Ohio voters in November elected governors who pledged to end rail projects that had already received substantial federal funding. Both governors have declined further federal rail money.
Cox also shows problems with high-speed rail proposals in California, Florida, and Illinois, and mocks the “fairy tales” government officials have been telling regarding investment from overseas:
“Proponents have been mouthing fairy tales about French, Chinese, or Japanese investment in the system,” Cox writes. “Can they be so naive as to believe French or Japanese taxpayers will pay for a high-speed rail system in California? In fact, any such ‘investment’ would be loans and would have to be paid back. Around the world, virtually all private investment for high-speed rail has been either lost or bailed out by taxpayers.”
For this and other reasons, writes Cox, taxpayers and governments in other nations are having doubts about their high-speed rail spending:
“The international news is barely any better. The Chinese government is now reviewing the wisdom of its huge expenditures on high-speed rail, as a result of a critical report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“In England, as in California, communities are resisting a proposed high-speed rail line. Cost overruns have been routine, as have been revenue and ridership shortfalls relative to the always-rosy projections.”
Read Cox’s full take-down of high-speed rail here.