I said last month that one of the main reasons I was going to reduce my blogging was that I was getting sick and tired of paying so much attention to the “yadda, yadda” of our delusional and largely meaningless national discourse. Today, however, I came across yet another example of the yadda, yadda that was SO delusional that I just had to make a comment on it. I’ll let Talking Points Memo tell you the details:
Amtrak, the government-owned national rail corporation, on Monday released an ambitious $151 billion plan to develop a high-speed rail line along the currently existing Northeast Corridor rail network by 2040.Reading that, the very first thing that leapt to mind was to wonder whether, given that they have to be aware that the U.S. is already nearly $16 trillion in debt and that any form of mass transportation project faces determined institutional opposition from a Republican Party that considers it to be “socialist,” the Amtrak executives who announced this proposal haven’t completely lost their marbles. The proposal itself is a big enough fantasy, but then they had to go ahead and make it even more out in space:
The proposed high-speed rail line would travel at top speeds of 220 miles-per-hour in some sections and be able to deliver passengers from Washington, D.C. to Boston in a little over 3 hours.
Distances between other major Northeastern cities would be shortened even more markedly, with travel times between New York and Boston or New York and Washington, D.C. down to 94 minutes, and a little over a half-hour between New York and Philadelphia.
Compare that to the current fastest Amtrak trains along the route, those in the Acela Express line, which take three-and-a-half hours to get from Boston to New York and a little under three hours to get from Washington, D.C. to New York.
The new Amtrak plan included the following chart showing the estimated time saved as construction on the new plan proceeds over the next 28 years.
But the plan proposes that Amtrak spend the next 13 years making improvements and upgrades to the 457 miles of current rail infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Washington, D.C. to Boston, before laying down the new track that would be necessary for a high speed rail line.So, Amtrak expects to spend thirteen years making “improvements” before it even STARTS construction? And worse yet, the proposed cost of the project has already ballooned by nearly one-third in just the past two years alone? Pardon me for asking, but what exactly are they smoking over there? I just hope they aren’t sharing it with the train operators.
In fact, Amtrak’s detailed outline, titled “The Amtrak Vision for the Northeast Corridor: 2012 Update Report,” is itself an updated and consolidated version of two other rail plans released by the corporation back in 2010, one focused on improving existing infrastructure and the other onhigh-speed rail, which Amtrak at that time estimated would cost $117.5 billion.
Just when I thought Amtrak had gone completely off the rails, to use yet another in my long line of unfortunate metaphors, they did at least somewhat acknowledge reality:
Still, Amtrak noted that “public sector leadership and funding is essential during the early years.”In other words, the odds of this plan ever being approved are somewhere between nada and a snowball’s chance in hell.
Bonus: Play a fucking train song