Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2010

WISCONSIN, OHIO REJECT FUNDS FOR HIGH-SPEED RAIL.... The United States has an infrastructure problem. We're currently "saddled with a rapidly decaying and woefully underfunded transportation system," which undermines our economy and weakens our position against global competitors.

A bipartisan investigation recently found that U.S. investment in preservation and development of transportation infrastructure "lags so far behind that of China, Russia and European nations that it will lead to 'a steady erosion of the social and economic foundations for American prosperity in the long run.'"

The Obama administration has made infrastructure a priority. Some newly-elected Republican governors don't care.

Gov.-elect Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Gov.-elect John Kasich in Ohio campaigned on pledges to stop passenger-rail projects in their states. On Thursday, they got their wish.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rescinded nearly $1.2 billion that had been allocated to Wisconsin and Ohio for new train lines. Wisconsin, which received $810 million for a passenger train between Madison and Milwaukee, will have to forfeit the entire amount. Ohio must give up $385 million of the $400 million allocated for a train connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Outgoing Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) urged his successor to reconsider, emphasizing the economic development associated with these infrastructure projects. Kasich refused, prompting Strickland to call the rejection of the funds "one of the saddest days during my four years as governor."

We are, by the way, talking about projects that create jobs, spur economic development, relieve traffic congestion, and help the environment, all while offering the promise of transforming American transportation in the 21st century.

That apparently isn't quite enough. The Republican line used to be that they can keep the trains running on time. The new line is that they can't keep the trains running at all.

There is one silver lining, though, at least for those of us outside Ohio and Wisconsin. Those state's leaders may not want the resources, the jobs, or the development, but the money will not be wasted -- the WSJ noted that "the funds will be redirected to train projects in 14 states."

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Haven't clicked through to check out their "reasoning" but if the Dems in those states don't point out that their new Gov's are just F***king insane then there is no hope left.

Posted by: martin on December 10, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Trains are inherently communistic! People all gathered together like that - just think of the revolutionary plotting that might be going on! - No, God intended for us to drive alone in our automobiles and listen to talk radio.

Posted by: Conservatroll on December 10, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

as a resident of illinois, i'd like to offer both govs a really big "thank you!"

Posted by: mellowjohn on December 10, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

OK, let's run through the Republican position on things one more time:
- I don't take the train anywhere, so the govt shouldn't build new train lines.
- My mortgage is OK, so the govt shouldn't help people adjust their mtgs.
- I'm employed (or retired), so the govt shouldn't pay unemployment benefits.
- I have health insurance, so the govt shouldn't help uninsured people get covered.
- But if I have Medicare, the govt shouldn't take a penny away from Medicare.
- My kids aren't in school, so the govt shouldn't fund high quality (or even barely low-quality) schools.
- But if my kids go to private schools, the govt should give me a tax break for it.

Has there ever, anywhere, been a bunch of more selfish assholes than today's Republican party?

Posted by: Basilisc on December 10, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

mellowjohn,

you're so very welcome.....Walker campaigned on this being a waste of resources and his supporters kept pointing out how more efficient it was for all us Badgers to hop in our cars and head out rather than having to endure the "inconvenience" of paying a seconds' attention to a train schedule

((sigh))

Posted by: otter61 on December 10, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Send the money to California. Then perhaps we'll get an honest return for all the tax dollars we send to DC.

We've been paying for welfare to red states for decades.

Posted by: bdop4 on December 10, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, on the thread below regarding the 9/11 Health bill you asked about the reaction by Illinois citizens to the Kirk Nay vote. I learned of the money being allocated to the State of Illinois for high speed rail by perusing both the Chicago papers, Trib and Sun-Times. This was mentioned, as well as the closing of Cabrini Green, the burial of the great Ron Santos (Who should be in enshrined in Cooperstown, BTW), the Bears-Pats game, the DADT vote and some other selected local issues. There was not one word about the vote of Kirk at either paper. So, unless FAUX splatters it across their screen, how will the the majority of Illinois voters know of this? FAUX would have only done so, had he broken ranks with his new chums.

However, I am happy to see the State of Washington has received some of the high speed money. Now, if only, they could only convince Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the UP to allow them to upgrade their beloved Freight Only tracks. Both the BNSF and UP hate the Talgo and Coast trains of Amtrak.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Good for Obama's DOT for holding the line. The R's play was to redirect these funds to building more roads and bridges in those states.

But how will the next Congress undermine this?

Posted by: ElegantFowl on December 10, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

As a Badger, this broke my heart. But, as one of my friends said, " When you elect motherf*$kers, don't act surprised when they start f*#king your mother".

Can't wait to run ads against Walker, from those other states, thanking him for the new jobs and investment in their state while Wisconsin becomes Wississippi.

Posted by: Mr. Yuck on December 10, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

If cars were good enough for Our Founding Fathers, they should be good enough for us!

Posted by: karen marie on December 10, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

I grew up with an excellent train system from the hinterlands into Chicago and I don't understand this issue with the trains. Madison to Milwaukee seems a no-brainer--what's the problem?
We lived in Ohio for 2 and a half very long, tedious years, and one of the first things I noticed was that Ohio was lacking a well developed commuter train system like that of Chicago/northwestern Indiana. Commuter trains bring growth and economic prosperity, and I've seen it with my own eyes. The GOP has some weird thing against trains, as they've been critical of Richardson's Rail Runner system here in New Mexico. What's the deal with trains, GOP?????

Posted by: Varecia on December 10, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

". . .lags so far behind that of China, Russia and European nations. . ."

-and not just in transportation! The above also applies to health care, education, longevity, yada yada yada.

America appears to be in its twilight years. An update is needed to the old saw: " Nero fiddled while Rome burned."

Posted by: DAY on December 10, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

having to endure the "inconvenience" of paying a seconds' attention to a train schedule

((sigh))
Posted by: otter61 on December 10, 2010

First time I visited Brussels, there was a train to Rotterdam every 15 minutes from 6AM throughout the day.

And more recently I've visited Japan. High speed trains from Tokyo to Osaka every 7 or 8 minutes.
And the trains run "on schedule". I may have to explain that expression for North Americans; that means each train departs at the exact minute the schedule says and arrives at each station at the exact minute the schedule says.

Little inconvenience!!

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on December 10, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Sad for Wisconsin & Ohio (who are getting what they deserve for electing rethugs), but happy for other states.

I would be happier if the feds pulled all possible funding out of Texas and all the other states with rethug governors who complain about federal spending.

I would be ecstatic if stimulus spending was pulled from all congressional districts where rethug congress critters voted (and continue to rail about) against the stimulus bill.

Posted by: SadOldVet on December 10, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

"What's the deal with trains, GOP?????"

I don't know... but I love riding the train from DC to NYC.

Posted by: pol on December 10, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

An update is needed to the old saw: " Nero fiddled while Rome burned."

Palin twittered while America collapsed?

Posted by: martin on December 10, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

"What's the deal with trains?" They don't burn enough oil. That sounds facile, but it's the literal truth in today's GOP, deep in the pocket of the new Oil Trust.

Posted by: ElegantFowl on December 10, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

As a New Englander, this can only be good news for our efforts at rail improvement; as a bonus, we might finally stop sending more money to the dingbat states than we get back from the feds (all the time being lectured by the welfare states about how we need to reduce our dependance on the feds).

Posted by: jhm on December 10, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

"What's the deal with trains, GOP?????"

They get a lot of money from the oil lobby to prevent decent public transit infrastructure from becoming a reality, would be my guess.

Posted by: rageahol on December 10, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

It's important to note that these weren't actually high-speed rail projects. The projects were still important, but there's only one (rather lame) high-speed rail project in the U.S., and that's in Florida.

Posted by: PhillyCooke on December 10, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

An update is needed to the old saw: " Nero fiddled while Rome burned."

Boehner tanned while America fanned?

Posted by: Winkandanod on December 10, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

A learned friend of mine suggests that we as a nation adopt a Fair Return Act, by which each state would normally receive from the federal gov't no more than it paid in federal taxes.
I'd love to see if these morons would turn down federal funds knowing that the funds were limited to their level of income tax contributions.
This, by the way, is a great idea. For one thing, it would clearly expose the fact that red states shoulder up to the public trough more than blue states do, per capita.

Posted by: slader on December 10, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

One reason we have an interstate highway system rather than an interstate passenger rail system is that the decision to support one and not the other with federal funds was made in the Eisenhower administration for military reasons (rail centers in cities were likely to be destroyed by nuclear attack). But note also that national debt was still extremely high at that time and this did not prevent adoption of a major infrastructure project - interstate highways - and debt/GDP continued to be reduced.

Posted by: skeptonomist on December 10, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

NYtimes reports the money will be redirected to CA and FL, primarily.

Mostly, this is great. One of our infrastructure problems is that we stretch our too few infrastructure dollars too far. WI will hopefully lose a congress seat after census; OH doesn't want trains.

Fine. DOT moved the money quickly. Good for them.

I never saw the ridership numbers for a Milwaukee- Madison line; ALways seemed like Madiso - Chicago made more sense

Posted by: bigutah on December 10, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Republicans.. To live with them is to die. At least you know where they stand; on the bad side of everything! So, with the "savings" are they going to give the rich another IV cash infusion or pay off the debt? Where are the scrote-baggers?

Posted by: Trollop on December 10, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

so:
trains = evil waste
mileage standards = attack on freedom
electric cars = girly man transportation
a snowy day = global cooling
offshore drilling = energy independence


If I didn't know better, alternate reality world is being funded big oil and brought to you by the lovable and cuddly GOBP.

Posted by: Oh my on December 10, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

"What's the deal with trains?"

More than just oil money. Combo of freight carriers not wanting any passenger service on their Beloved freight tracks. Plus, in Texas, several years ago, Boeing helped kill a Golden Triangle hi-speed rail line in order to help Southwest Airlines. From that point forward, Southwest only bought planes from Boeing. This was before the merger with McDonald Douglas, so, the MD-80s and 90s were dead with Southwest, who only bought Boeing 737s.

However, I remember my AT&SF RR railroad conductor father taking me on a fun ride on the interurban from Chicago to Milwaukee and back, so, we could catch out of the old Dearborn Station for our train back to KC. Wasn't Dearborn used in the film of "Silver Streak"?

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

They don't want the money? Fine. This is a feature not a bug.

Posted by: square1 on December 10, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Has there ever, anywhere, been a bunch of more selfish assholes than today's Republican party?"

Yes,...We're called Baby Boomers.

Posted by: h on December 10, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

I love trains. I once spent a great summer riding trains all over most of Europe, and they were fun, convenient, and got me nearly everywhere. It is also true that infrastructure investments can pay off handsomely and be transformative in many unforeseeable ways (e.g. the many economic benefits of interstate freeways).

However, I have a hard time seeing standard fast trains being successful in Ohio. I'm not sure how times break down between trains and airplanes with Ohio-scale distances, allowing for travel to airports and train stations, but I'm assuming they are comparable. The main problems are (1) in Ohio, once you get to your destination city, you need a car, so you may as well have driven, (2) Ohioans, like Americans in general, love their cars, and (2) it is hard for trains to compete economically with cars for transporting a family, so we are mostly talking about single business travellers.

(Now, if someone came up with drive-on / drive-off ultrafast car trains that allowed us to cross Kansas at 350 mph, or smart freeways & cars that allowed people to merge onto a freeway and link into an automated traffic control system that took over your driving, that might be a whole different matter...)

Posted by: N.Wells on December 10, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

As a citizen of California, the biggest recipient of these rejected HSR funds, I offer my hearty thanks to the Reich Wingers in Wisconsin and Ohio who elected these NIMBY troglodytes to their respective governor's office.

And I offer condolences to the rest of the citizens of those states. I know that it's cold comfort, but at least those funds won't go to waste.

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 10, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

In fairness to Walker, the public was pretty evenly split on the train--they did elect Walker which tells you all you need to know about the intellect of the average Badger voter--and bigutah makes a good point that Chicago to Rockford to Madison and onto the Twin Cities would have made much more sense. The great thing is that everybody in the state is going to see what voting GOP means--no growth, more unemployment and either the state declaring bankruptcy or a quadrupling of property taxes. The public service unions--at least one of which endorsed Walker because they were pissed about Barrett trying to contain the cost of government services in Milwaukee--are really going to find out what it means to have a not very bright idealogue as governor.

Posted by: Terry on December 10, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

"..cross Kansas at 350 MPH"

What? And miss the panoramic views of the tree, the silo, another tree, another silo?

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent article posted here yesterday; I think it pertains to the larger dynamic we are seeing which is there is no longer a contract between the business community and the citizenry of America. They really don't need us anymore as consumers.

http://theygaveusarepublic.com/diary/7207/maybe-the-rich-just-dont-need-us-anymore


Posted by: citizen_pain on December 10, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Great, California gets some token seed money for a rail project estimated to cost at least $2000 per Californian once it's done and paid for, not even counting operational costs.

The faith that my fellow liberals have in the economic feasibility of high speed rail is almost as misguided as the conservative belief that overpriced and unworkable missile shields will keep us safe from our enemies.

Honestly, I'd rather the money be spent on something really cool, like a high speed roller coaster running from Magic Mountain in LA to Discovery Kingdom in the Bay Area.

Posted by: Rip on December 10, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I don't know. Do we need passenger rail in Ohio and Wisconsin? I'm very mush pro-rail, but spend the money in the most populated corridors, like California and the East Coast.

Posted by: Mike on December 10, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Is there a big need for a high speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee? Why not put the money and resources where it could have the most impact? Why not take a more targeted approach where there is a higher population, more densely concentrated, where people are more inclined to use mass transit, and where it would ease congested highways? This shotgun approach to much of the stimulus spending diluted the potential impact that it could have had if the money was concentrated in areas where smart growth was a viable and wanted option.

Posted by: lou on December 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody, NOBODY taking a 1000 mile trip is going to pay a much higher fare, and take a much longer time to get there on a high speed train when they can pay less and get there faster on an airplane.

HSR works in Europe and Japan because of the small distances involved and the fact that after the war they couldn't afford cars.

It works in China because only recently have a significant number of people become car-owners.

It's not going to work in the United States except on the coastal travel corridors, and even then it will be a hard sell.

Posted by: JEA on December 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Well Mike believe it or not there are actually people living in Ohio. And 400m dollars wouldn't hurt the economy in Ohio. The fact that Kasich is 100% douche bag will with the help of his idiot stance on this rail project become increasingly clear to the people of the state of Ohio. If not we can just start calling it Ohissippi.

Posted by: Gandalf on December 10, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

On behalf of California, thanks Ohio and Wisconsin. Not only are we happy to have the trains, but the jobs that come with them.

Posted by: tinka on December 10, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK
However, I have a hard time seeing standard fast trains being successful in Ohio. I'm not sure how times break down between trains and airplanes with Ohio-scale distances, allowing for travel to airports and train stations, but I'm assuming they are comparable. The main problems are (1) in Ohio, once you get to your destination city, you need a car, so you may as well have driven

There are solutions to needing rail around both endpoints of a journey that don't require driving between the endpoints.


Posted by: cmdicely on December 10, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

As a Californian, I would like to thank Wisconsin and Ohio Republicans for voting to give free money to our state. Thank you!

Posted by: Steve Simitzis on December 10, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's often said that we can't make decisions to fix problems until they become crises. So these governors are doing the rest of us a favor by speeding up the time to crisis in their states. As a north-easterner, I would prefer to see that money used to improve the north east corridor which is where a large part of the countries business takes place anyhow. And Ohio and Wisconsin will become improved destinations for weekend antiquing.

Posted by: njrich on December 10, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Wisconsin doesn't want high speed rail? Governor Quinn has already told them they can bring the manufacturing plant from Milwaukee to Illinois. Way to cut off your nose to spite your face Wisconsin.

Posted by: markg8 on December 10, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

I am applauding all of the above refreshing-to-read-comments! I too,live in New Mexico,Varecia, you're so correct when you pose your inquiry,"What's the deal with trains, GOP?????"
I almost have nothing to say/post the aforementioned have clearly stated my thoughts and/or opinions on national/regional (high speed) rail systems. I too, have lived in Japan, trains worked wonderfully for an American in a foreign land. I have visited Chicago, I stayed at a hotel near O'Hare Airport, which was within walking distance of the Blue Line into Chicago.My CTA tickets/tokens weren't more than $20 instead of renting a car for $120, the 45 min to 1hr commute was communistic, students, revelers, retirees, cyclists,etc. My friend and I then walked around the fine city of Chicago spending our tourists dollars.Eventually our visit included Soldier Field for the U2 concert. Money well spent.

Posted by: Tiahn Brooks on February 22, 2011 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK
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