Wednesday, March 18, 2009

R U Stimulated Yet?

Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that Amtrak and other Passenger Rail projects are getting stimulus money. I also love the fact that the prospect of following that money has gotten state and local governments and their politicians to pay attention. (I doubt they would pay so much attention if it didn't involve gobs of cash.)

Here in the great state of confusion we call New Mexico, our Passenger Rail project is completed for the time being. (See Rail Runner Express.) Any stimulus money that goes to transportation here is likely only to assist in the perpetuation of that franchise rather than starting anything new. Follow my link (in the header) to Passenger Rail news, however, and you will find news on any of a hundred new projects.

But stimulus money, by law, must be spent on - I hate this term - "shovel ready" projects. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that means ready to start a foundation or ready to bury the dead. But few rail projects are going to be shovel ready. Nor will few meet the test of job creation that is attached to the transportation funds. The money being thrown at Amtrak appears to be an exception, and I hope the masters of make-do at Amtrak catch all of it and use it wisely.

I also hope that Amtrak can find a domestic rail car builder before they are all bankrupt, but that's another story.

My point is that much more of the stimulus money is going to wind up in building or repairing more and better roads, some airport runways or terminals, airway infrastructure, and - gasp - bailing out the auto industry, than will ever be put into Passenger Rail. As we sell out more of our grandkids' future, perhaps the trend towards thoughtful, intermodally integrated and environmentally sound transportation policy will change that. Who's going to pay for it? I don't know.

So just sit back and get ready to watch those passengers shovel.

© 2009 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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