Checking in with reaction from yesterday's big high-speed rail announcement, it sounds like everyone is worried about the obvious: Funding. In an OpEd, the Los Angeles Times wonders how this thing is going to be paid for, noting that successful high-speed trains in other countries have been funded by gas taxes, a move that hasn't been enacted here. Via the paper: "Instead of raising the money to pay for his vision, Obama proposes to fund it with debt. So does the state of California, where voters last November approved nearly $10 billion in bonds for the San Diego-to-Sacramento train Obama aims to support. That's all well and good, except that the California train alone is expected to cost in excess of $40 billion. Obama's $13 billion over five years won't go far in building a national network that would cost hundreds of billions. So where's the rest of the money going to come from?" And over at Slate, political writer Christoper Beam believes that while Obama made have made a "career opposing policies that disproportionately benefit the rich," high-speed rail will be a luxury project. Writes Beam: "What he did not address, though, is how much people will have to pay once the rails are built. Right now, Amtrak is a luxury product. One-way tickets from Washington to New York City currently start around $70. During peak times, that can rise to $140. On the ultrafast Acela, tickets start around $100 and quickly reach double that." Meanwhile, missing from yesterday's news about Obama throwing billions at high speed rail projects including California's, was anything about the proposed maglev from Anaheim to Vegas.
The Federal Railroad Administration had previously indicated the maglev wouldn't be eligible for stimulus funding since it doesn't run in one of the 10 designated high-speed corridors. The maglev, being pushed by a public/private partnership, has already received money from the government: $45 million from the Bush administration last year. But it can't even use that money unless it finds 20 percent matching funds, which by all indications it has not. Meanwhile, the DesertXpress train also faces massive hurdles. This proposal includes an electric or diesel/electric train running from Victorville to Vegas, but since its private, it has never been eligible for federal funds, reports the Desert Dispatch, which adds the city of Barstow came out in support of the maglev but gave a thumbs down to DesertXpress. Also, it's not clear who'd use it other than a few cocktail waitresses and Rick Springfield. [Photos via California-Nevade Train Commission]
· California-Nevada Maglev Project [Official HTML site]
· City Council Votes to Support Anaheim to Vegas Train [Desert Dispatch]