Thursday, March 23, 2006

Now We Trust You

But we would still prefer you don't stand too close to the tracks.

The State of New Mexico has wired $45 million into BNSF Railway's bank account. What did we, the taxpayers, get for our dollars?

First, we bought a right-of-way. Hmm. Let's think about that. Fifty miles of right of way with an average width, according to actual maps, of about 60 feet. That's about 15,840,000 square feet. At my current assessment and tax rate for unimproved land, that's property taxes of $6,019,200. Lucky for BNSF Railway they won't have to pay that any more. Factoid: Nobody will pay it! It is now state land and the state doesn't tax itself, nor can any local municipalities through which it passes tax it.

Next, we bought tracks and switches and signals. A regular railroad infrastructure. A little research also tells us that the average cost for maintaining track, signals and grade crossings (not buildings) on a comparably sized railroad is $25,000 per mile per year. That's $12.5 million per year.

Hmm, again. We've got $18,519,200 per year. So far. And something tells us the right-of-way is wider than 60 feet in some spots. Also more valuable than a dollar a foot.

Next, we bought prestige. New Mexico is no longer one of the few states with no commuter railroads. Don't pull the tourism ads yet. We don't believe many will visit New Mexico just to ride these 50 miles of track.

We have also purchased a place to run our trains, which are costing us a bundle just to keep them idle. We wish we all had a place to run our trains.

And finally, we bought permission. BNSF Railway wasn't about to let us on the tracks until we ponied up the money and put up the bond to protect them from our own stupidity. But don't stand too close to the tracks with those nice commuter trains. BNSF still has to run some freights up and down to help us pay for the $63 million plus that we have to find in the piggy bank for the first year, before we even begin to have operating costs or revenue from Rail Runner.

Yes, Jose and Juanita, don't stand too close to the tracks. You get too close, you might just see how much it all costs.

(The author of this blog is based in Albuquerque, NM.)

© 2006 - C. A. Turek -

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