Thursday, February 18, 2010

Federal $$$ for high speed rail: Michigan is left at the station (or, what passenger rail and the Detroit Lions have in common)

Here’s a link to an Opinion piece in today’s Detroit Free Press from my colleague Tim Fischer

It explains that Michigan is losing hundred of millions of dollars in federal money that could make passenger railroad service better.

The reason? Michigan isn’t making any investment of its own. It’s kind of like a relative asking for help with his mortgage payment. You're not so keen on helping when you know he's been home watching Judge Judy all month instead of looking for a job.

Says Tim:
“While Wisconsin's governor was negotiating with (train manufacturer) Talgo, our governor was proposing a 25% cut in the state's passenger rail funding. While the Illinois Senate was approving that $400 million to expand passenger rail, our senators were looking to cut rail funding in half. While the Florida Legislature was endorsing its state's rail plan, we didn't have one. We still don't.”

On the Freep’s Opinion page you can see a counterpoint from someone at the Cato Institute

He says it’s a good thing we didn’t get any money to invest in rail, because then we’d have to spend our own money to maintain it. That’s easier to say when you don’t live in Michigan. It’s also easier to say when your institute is funded by interests (oil companies for one) who stand to lose if passenger rail ever actually becomes viable for everyday people in Michigan.

He also makes the argument that passenger rail service sucks, so why should we invest in it?
It’s a familiar line of reasoning around here: It’s the same approach that William Clay Ford Sr. has taken with the Detroit Lions. And it’s worked out so well for them.

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