Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Obama's State of the Union Address: That's right; no high-speed rail

Just got back from sitting in the front row of the House Chamber in Washington, listening to Obama's State of the Union Address. (Well, not really.)

This -- see below for key excerpts -- is as close as Obama got to high-speed rail tonight. So, the message is "repair" and "rebuild", not new starts. While it is important to note that what one doesn't say also sends a message, this HSR omission should not be construed that the Obama Administration is decisively dropping the HSR agenda.  We don't know that. Ray LaHood certainly hasn't given up. 

It has been pointed out that Obama has used the word "crumbling" and "infrastructure" frequently in a number of recent speeches. And he used prior examples as paragons, such as the Interstate Highway and Hoover Dam, just the way Brown did in his state of the state speech. 

BUT, Obama did not allude to transit, rail or HSR.  Indeed, as I listened to him say the words "high-speed," I panicked until he said "broadband network." Then I feared he would be poetic and link that with high-speed rail.  But, thankfully, he didn't. (I think he did that on purpose just to raise my systolic number.)

So, while HSR did not appear as a critical issue the way it did in the past State of the Union Addresses -- indeed it did not appear at all -- he still sees infrastructure repair as a worthy investment. So do I.

Obama also flirted with notions such as using the funds saved from wars ending to "nation building."
That also could have suggested HSR, but he didn't spell this concept out. Finally, he brought in the issue of unemployed construction workers, another opportunity to raise the HSR issue. But, again, he let it pass.

Does this mean that the federal Administration has passed the HSR problem on to California's Governor to solve and fund? And, if the message, especially after tonight, is that HSR is no longer an Administration priority, what will Brown do in confronting the fact that there will be no further funding unless there's a dramatic turn-around at election time?

Perhaps it simply doesn't matter. Brown is after the promised $3.5 billion. If that's all there is, it's still a huge amount for this cash-strapped state. And it will play into the state deficit and debt bottom lines.  So, State Democrats and the rail authority will pretend to build a HSR until the money runs out. By which time, they will all have retired.

"Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure.  So much of America needs to be rebuilt.  We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges.  A power grid that wastes too much energy.  An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.

During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.  After World War II, we connected our States with a system of highways.  Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.

In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.  But you need to fund these projects.  Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.

There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit when the housing bubble burst."

Please note new email address:

Martin Engel
1621 Stone Pine Lane
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Web-site:  http://high-speedtraintalk.blogspot.com/

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