With the unceremonious ending of plans for a half-fast train in Wisconsin and the ever-shrinking prospects for an expensive trolley in downtown Milwaukee, it's sometimes easy to forget the left's continuing obsession with spending billions of dollars on high speed trains elsewhere.
Even with budget cuts that apparently mean we cannot afford to let schoolchildren tour the White House, the Obama Administration is pressing ahead with plans for boondoggles like the Xpress West, a $5.5 billion train to Vegas.
On Friday, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) sent a letter to train hobbyist Ray LaHood urging him to scrap the idea. As Heritage notes:
The train, called XpressWest, would run from Victorville, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada. As Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Wendell Cox notes with skepticism, "Promoters expect people to drive 50 to 100 miles to get to the station and then get off the freeway, park, and board the train for the final 175 miles to Las Vegas." Translation: Keep on dreaming.
Indeed, the plan’s viability depends on wildly optimistic projections of ridership—four times that of Amtrak’s Acela train on the Northeast Corridor—and accompanying fare box revenues. If they fail to materialize, as Cox’s risk assessment of the project estimates, then the train will be unable to repay the loan, leaving taxpayers on the hook.
Sessions and Ryan note that Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loans are "incredibly generous to the borrower." XpressWest would be receiving the largest RRIF loan issued in history.
Citing these concerns and the risk of incurring tremendous capital cost overruns—all of which have characterized similar high-speed trains around the world—Sessions and Ryan write:
For these reasons, we are deeply troubled by the prospects of subsidizing another costly, wasteful, and risky high-speed rail project, particularly when our nation is facing a debt crisis that threatens the well-being of the current and future generations of Americans.… We would urge the Administration to reject the XpressWest loan application and to direct its available RRIF funds to more worthy transportation infrastructure projects that could truly provide a reasonable rate of return to the taxpayers of this nation.