Rail Project Payola from On High

The idea of robust, safe, high-speed, intercity rail as mass transit is a good one. In principle, I support it, for a multitude of reasons. Ideally, such a rail project would be developed fairly, equitably, and thoughtfully, in a logistically and geographically integrated way, with a measure of careful economic foresight that would allow the system to pay for itself through a combination of fares, grants, bonds and sponsorship, at a minimum of burden to the federal balance sheet. As with most good public-works ideas, however, politics has a way of turning a fine ideal into something slimy.

As many folks have read or heard by now, the White House has proposed a fine-sounding idea on the surface, in the form of grants to states for developing high-speed rail corridors between cities, some large, some not so large. The Engineering News-Record offers a nice summary.

Being an avid student of geography and a skeptic of Washington politics, it didn’t take long for me to detect a fishy smell wafting from the list of top grant recipients in that story. Consider this map I’ve annotated.

Another way to view the situation is to consider the table itself, also with pertinent annotation.

This cannot be mere coincidence. Behind an initially good idea is just what we don’t need: “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” favoritism…or to put it my way, dog-ass dirty politics! Let’s not even go into what this will do to the national debt. Such is the Chicago-in-Washington way of this administration. The more things “change”…


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