Two years ago, the idea of building a $1 billion rail system in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area died when the FTA said not enough people would ride it to justify federal funding. But now, a new proposal has been made to build a similar rail system, only this one would cost twice as much money for twice as many miles of rail.
Because, as everyone knows, if building 28 miles of rail line is a waste of money, then building 56 miles makes perfect sense.
Proponents are counting on getting a quarter of the money from Washington and a quarter from the state of North Carolina. Of course, at a mere $35 million a mile, $2 billion won’t be enough to build the proposed 56 miles of light rail, not when most light-rail lines are coming in at $50 million a mile. But they’ll worry about that later.
Who are the “experts” who came up with this plan? To give you a hint, the chair of the citizens advisory committee is a pathologist at Duke University. That certainly makes one eligible to be an amateur transit expert qualified to spend $2 billion of someone else’s money.
They point to the Charlotte light rail as a great success, even though it had 100 percent cost overruns, opened months late, and put numerous retailers along its route out of business. They don’t mention these things, but instead focus on the supposed billions in investments made along the route (which also happens to be one of the city’s main thoroughfares). At least some of those investments were made by companies forced to move somewhere when light-rail construction devastated their business.
Where do these wacky ideas come from? Cities can see that a Democrat more favorable to rail than the current administration is likely to occupy the White House next year and that Congress is likely to raise gas taxes for “infrastructure” and dedicate 40 percent of that increase to transit. So cities like and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill are lining up to be ready for the pork when it becomes available.
Never mind how expensive and stupid the ideas are — the more expensive, the better because you need to have expensive systems to get “your share” of the pork. Never mind that local taxpayers will have to pay half the construction and most of the operating and maintenance costs — you can sell rail to them by talking about congestion (even though it won’t relieve congestion) and the need to be a “world-class city,” or at least keep up with Charlotte/Minneapolis/whatever-is-the-nearest-big-city with a rail project.