Friday, April 15, 2011

Wendell Cox's week-end report on high-speed rail

In brief, the situation looks like this.  FY 2011, until the end of this fiscal year, will have no further federal funding for HSR. However, there is still the matter of around $5 billion in the FRA piggybank, including the Florida several billion. Some of that could come to California and add miles to the Central Valley's rail construction beginning in the fall of 2012. 

The FY 2012 budget contains the Transportation Budget, now in negotiations and will authorize expenditures for the coming six years. It is most likely that this budget will also be 'zeroed' out for high-speed rail.

That means, in California, construction can begin in 2012 unless there is appropriate litigation to stop the project due to Proposition 1A legal violations.  Those steps are currently under consideration. 

Other Republican state legislatures or governors are re-assessing the questionable benefits of federal HSR funding, besides Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida.  We need to watch how that develops but it suggests an expanded dissatisfaction with the financing which the federal government's  small initiating fraction provides, the balance being left to the individual states.

Those who believe that California will receive a large portion of the Florida ARRA stimulus funds need to recognize that the other states with high-speed rail aspirations have not been silent or idle.  They are now campaigning vigorously for a share of those dollars. California is no longer "the only game in town."

Nearly twenty Democratic Senators from the Northeast States have bound themselves to campaign for HSR dollars to be awarded to Amtrak, now designated as the lead agency for the development of a true high-speed rail system in the Northeast Corridor. 

Have a great week-end.



by Wendell Cox 04/15/2011

The week ended April 16 was particularly difficult for high speed rail, as the following events illustrate.

1. High Speed Rail Zeroed Out of US Budget: The US federal budget deal, which cut $38 billion from spending ($76 billion annualized) zeroed out the $2.5 billion 2011 budget allocation for high speed rail and $400 million of prior spending authority from President Obama's "stimulus" program, that had provided $8 billion for high speed rail in 2009. Approximately $2 billion of that authority remains and applications total $10 billion, mostly for conventional intercity rail services, rather than genuine high speed rail service.

2.  Missouri Legislators Block High Speed Rail: Members of the Senate Transportation Committee in Missouri refused to place high speed rail in the annual state budget. Governor Jay Nixon is seeking more than $1 billion for intercity out of the remaining $2 billion from the original Obama Administration $8 billion program. Governor Nixon indicates that he will try to get the money placed in the budget should the US Department of Transportation award a grant. Missouri joins Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio in taking actions to block funding for high speed rail projects. This reluctance is principally the result of concerns that high speed rail will incur significant cost overruns and require operating subsidies, all of which would have to be paid for by the states, which generally face serious financial difficulties.

3. China Slows Down Trains: Safety, energy conservation and fare equity issues led the Ministry of Railways to announce a slow-down of its fastest trains to a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour). This could add materially to travel times, especially in the longer corridors being developed, which traverse the greatest distance of any in the world (such as Shanghai-Kunming, Shanghai-Beijing and Beijing-Hong Kong).

4. Opposition to Britain's HS2 Line Intensifies: Opposition continues to mount against Britain's HS2 line from London to Manchester and Leeds. Protesters showed up at a Department of Transport event at Northampton Station intended to obtain views on the government's plans. Lizzy Williams, chair of "Stop HS2" expressed concern that the government's "consultation" was not objective and told only one side of the story, ignoring the difficulties (A video of Ms. Williams at an anti-HSE convention is here). Opposition groups also plan a rally on May 8. Finally, it was reported that projected time savings on the line have been exaggerated by the government.