Monday, April 4, 2011

Some good morning HSR articles and comments

Just to get the day started, here are two things that popped up in our search.

The Illinois rail project should be called what it really is, an Amtrak upgrade.  It has nothing to do with high-speed rail, despite the marketing label to make it sound more attractive and eligible for federal funding.  There's a huge difference between upgrading from 79 mph to 110 mph (which can happen even with the local commuter Caltrain), and building a 220 mph train from scratch.

Remember, Illinois is really why the Obama Administration agreed to stick $8 billion into the ARRA Stimulus funding package the night before it passed into law.

The intention was earmarked pork dollars for the home state (we've discussed this before: LaHood, Emanuel, Obama, Szabo) although the amounts are, in federal terms, trivial.  What they are talking about is less than a billion dollars, which, compared to California's anticipated HSR costs, is trivial, (although more than I make in a week!) 

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with upgrading existing infrastructure, including rail.  However, it should be demand driven, not because rail promoter politicians think it's a good idea. But, this is the aspect of "HSR" that spreads the pork around.  California wants it all concentrated in this state for the bottomless pit of money the HSR project will require here.

The second piece, below, is a summary overview based on an Adam Summers article we reproduced in this blog previously.  It's about the disastrous financing of this mega-infrastucture project and how we have yet to hear the truth about anything from the CHSRA.

Something this expensive and dishonest can't continue. Time to shut this project down.  I will be really amazed if this does not happen this year!

4/4/2011 12:00:00 PM    High-Speed Rail
Illinois high-speed rail corridor work under way

On Saturday, work crews began installing 96 miles of rail and 250,000 ties for a future high-speed rail line in central Illinois as part of the construction of Amtrak's Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor.

The work will require temporary schedule changes for some Lincoln Service trains for several weeks, and a detour of the Texas Eagle between Chicago and St. Louis, Amtrak officials said in a prepared statement. The temporary changes will enable Union Pacific Railroad to improve infrastructure to prepare track for Amtrak service that will travel at speeds of up to 110 mph vs. the current maximum of 79 mph.

The Illinois Department of Transportation expects the Dwight-to-Pontiac, Ill., track segment to be ready for faster service in 2012. 

The Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor is among the first U.S. high-speed rail projects to begin construction. Last week, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and railroad industry representatives announced that construction would begin. About $685 million worth of construction work is expected to be completed this year, according to Amtrak. 

Daily Policy Digest
Government Issues
April 4, 2011
California High-Speed Rail Cost Goes Up

Like most large public infrastructure projects, the California high-speed rail project was sold to the public based on false promises, exaggerated benefits and lowball cost estimates, says Adam Summers, a policy analyst with the Reason Foundation.

•Before the election, the cost of the project was estimated at $33 billion for the Los Angeles/Anaheim to San Francisco portion, and an additional $7 billion for the spurs to San Diego and Sacramento.

•Voters narrowly passed a $9.95 billion bond in 2008, and the federal government and private investors were supposed to cover the remaining $30 billion.

•Voters were promised that a one-way fare between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost about $55, making it cheaper than flying.

•After the election, costs rose to $43 billion for just the Los Angeles-San Francisco phase (chances are the San Diego and Sacramento lines will never be built) and ticket price estimates nearly doubled to $105.

Yet none of this seems to bother the California High-Speed Rail Authority or cause it to reevaluate the feasibility of the project.

•Ridership estimates are projected as high as 117 million passengers a year.

•To put this in perspective, consider that Amtrak's Acela Express service, which serves the larger, denser Washington, D.C.-New York-Boston corridor at speeds up to 150 miles per hour, counts just three million passengers per year.
•In fact, the entire Amtrak system, which includes more than 500 destinations and 21,000 miles of track in 46 states, serves only 27 million passengers a year.

A September 2008 study by rail experts Joseph Vranich and Wendell Cox published by Reason Foundation and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association concluded that the actual costs of the high-speed rail system would be between $65 billion and $81 billion, and that the project was not viable because it was based on wildly optimistic assumptions, says Summers.

Source: Adam Summers, "California High-Speed Rail: the Next Stop Is Bankruptcy," San Diego Union-Tribune, April 3, 2011.

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