If politicians in states such as California, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin can’t stomach the idea of a high-speed rail system, the Obama administration should redirect billions of federal dollars to where they belonged in the first place: the busy Northeastern corridor, where population density and public appreciation for train travel both run high.
When the administration handed out $8 billion in rail grants, New England came up mostly short, landing a mere 2 percent of the money. Yet many of the big winners in this competition hardly seem grateful. As The New York Times reported last week, Republican candidates for governor in a number of states are campaigning against the rail projects their states received gobs of federal money to build. The money isn’t enough, these candidates argue, to cover the whole cost of the rail projects. In Wisconsin, Republican nominee Scott Walker has gone as far as to set up a website called www.NoTrain.com.
Well, the money would do plenty of good around here. Overly sharp curves and other track problems hold down speeds on Amtrak’s Acela service in the Northeast — the closest thing to high-speed rail in the United States. The federal money could be used to smooth out obstacles and fill in gaps in the New England network. And taking it away from California, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin would save those states a big political headache. Consider it a win-win agreement.