High-Speed Trains Don't Want Them? No Problem — We'll Take Them
Hartford Courant editorial
November 21, 2010
This fall, high-speed rail became the Nancy Pelosi of infrastructure, the focal point of attack by Republican candidates for governor in several states. Most of these candidates won and are now pledging to kill rail projects in their states.
This is short-sighted, with the country needing desperately to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions. For states in the Northeast, however, killing the Silver Streak offers a silver lining. If Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey and Florida don't want the money, put it on the fast track to New England, please.
Why some GOP leaders want to kill these projects is a bit of a head-scratcher. For example, Scott Walker, the incoming governor of Wisconsin, vowed to end a proposed high-speed rail link between Milwaukee and Madison, part of a high-speed rail corridor from Minneapolis to Chicago. The project was to be paid for with $810 million in federal stimulus funds. Mr. Walker said he doesn't want to pay the paltry $7.5 million operating subsidy, though federal funding is available for up to 90 percent of that.
In New Jersey, first-term Republican Gov. Chris Christie killed a Hudson River tunnel project that would have added thousands of jobs to the Garden State's economy. He was worried about possible cost overruns.
One explanation is that these fiscal conservatives wanted to use the rail money to pay their highway bills without raising taxes. That's not going to happen, said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. If the money — $810 million for Wisconsin, $400 million for Ohio, $2.6 billion for Florida and $3 billion for New Jersey — isn't used for high-speed rail, it goes back to Washington, he said, presumably to be awarded to other states.
U.S. Rep. John Mica of Florida, a Republican in line to head the House Transportation Committee in January, said he would like to redirect the rail money to the Northeast corridor, which he described as possibly the only place in the country with enough population density to financially support high-speed train service.
Trains take countless cars off the road and compete with air travel for 100- to 500-mile trips, which is why so many cities in Europe and Asia are connected by high-speed rail. But if other governors insist on not building the red state express, let's get a grant application in the mail.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at