Everybody seems to wonder
What it's like down here
I gotta get away
from this day-to-day
this is nowhere.
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - New Mexico, Colorado and Texas are applying for federal funds to study the viability of a high-speed rail system from El Paso through New Mexico to Denver.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Thursday the three states will submit a joint pre-application Friday for up to $5 million to pay for the study.
Whether the study costs $5 million or $5 billion, it will be hard pressed to find any compelling public interest to justify a high-speed railroad through what is about 98 percent desert and high plains. Having lived in New Mexico, I can assure you that "high-speed" and "New Mexico" are almost impossible to put into a single sentence that wouldn't make a jackrabbit laugh.
The state's favorite pastime is "low riding." That is, driving modified muscle cars as slowly as possible back and forth along the main streets of towns. (Local joke: Why do low riders like cars with small steering wheels? So they can drive with their handcuffs on.)
Planned high-speed railway is expected
to boost local business.
It is hard to imagine there would be very much freight — at least, of a legal kind — to haul along such a route. But according to the AP story, the line is envisioned for passenger service.
Is anyone in Denver in a hurry to get to El Paso? I don't think so.
Is anyone in El Paso in a hurry to get to Denver? Yes, Mexican illegals and dope runners.
Udall, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, says travelers can't get from Albuquerque to Denver without changing trains in Los Angeles or Chicago.
No, Senator, you mean hypothetical train travelers. But travelers have the option to drive or fly. If you wanted to go from your office in Albuquerque to Denver, would you take a train the 335 miles between those cities? If it were nonstop, that would cost you more than four hours at an average speed of 80 mph; longer, if the train stopped near Santa Fe and at Pueblo and Colorado Springs. I know we're not all as busy and important as you, Senator, but in our own sluglike way, most of us do value our time.
Even with fares on the high-speed route subsidized to a pretty penny, like Amtrak's, they might also wind up lightening our net worth more than a plane ticket would.
Debating this project's merits is beside the point, though. It's a throwback to a vanished era when politicians were capable of being a little embarrassed at promoting boondoggles.
No longer. The floodgates have been opened. Even the left-wing USA Today reports: "Billions of dollars in federal aid delivered directly to the local level to help revive the economy have gone overwhelmingly to places that supported President Obama in last year's presidential election."
Stimulus has become the Politician's Stone, key element in an alchemical process for turning debt into gold. For those who play by Chicago Rules, that is.