Fed to invest $13 billion in nationwide high-speed rail project - Business First of Columbus:
Horrible, horrible, horrible idea.Four months after unveiling a high-speed rail plan for the United States, the federal government is now allocating money to get the ball rolling.
The White House and the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday said it will invest $8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and $1 billion a year for five years as a down payment to develop a passenger rail system and put the transportation policy on the right track.
Overall, the program will have 10 high-speed rail corridors that would be potential recipients of federal funding. Those lines are: California, Pacific Northwest, Chicago Hub Network (which includes Columbus), Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service.
Before the government spends $13 billion on new railroads, how about they first demonstrate that they can run Amtrak efficiently?
Amtrak commenced operations in 1971 with $40 million in direct Federal aid, $100 million in Federally insured loans, and a somewhat larger private contribution. Officials expected that Amtrak would break even by 1974, but those expectations proved unrealistic and annual direct Federal aid reached a 17-year high in 1981 of $1.25 billion. During the Reagan administration, appropriations were halved. By 1986, Federal support fell to a decade low of $601 million, almost none of which were capital appropriations. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Congress continued the reductionist trend even while Amtrak expenses held steady or rose. Amtrak was forced to borrow to meet short-term operating needs, and by 1995 Amtrak was on the brink of a cash crisis and was unable to continue to service its debts. In response, in 1997 Congress authorized $5.2 billion for Amtrak over the next five years—largely to complete the Acela capital project—on the condition that Amtrak submit to the ultimatum of self-sufficiency by 2003 or liquidation. Amtrak made financial improvements during the period, but ultimately did not achieve self-sufficiency.