NBC News interviewed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently, and he gave a very good set of statements about high speed rail and the reasons to invest in the system:
Of course his statements also suggest we here in California are well positioned to get some of the $8 billion in HSR stimulus. Later this week President Obama will announce his plans for HSR including criteria by which the USDOT will allocate the $8 billion in HSR stimulus. As the Sacramento Bee reported over the weekend Mehdi Morshed of the CHSRA believes that California can get as much as $4 billion of that money, although the Bee did not list any specifics.
Instead of providing details on what the $4 billion would buy, the Bee decided to give space to one of the main HSR deniers, Joseph Vranich, to spout his usual nonsense:
Critics also contend that California's proposed system is riddled with greatly inflated ridership estimates and greatly understated cost projections.
"The California authority has ignored the lessons of Florida and Texas, and has repeated all the mistakes," said Joseph Vranich, a former Amtrak official and former president of the High Speed Rail Association. "It hasn't produced a single number or report or prediction that is true."
For example, Vranich argues, California should be disqualified from receiving federal rail aid because its environmental impact statements are outdated and inaccurate.
Morshed, who denied the state's project lacks accurate EIS documents, said a bigger fear is that federal transportation officials will adhere to political expediency and disburse the money in widespread, but tiny, amounts.
This is some rather poor reporting from the SacBee. They set up Vranich, whose hatred of passenger rail projects has been the subject of several exposés on this blog, as some kind of expert. I guess all you have to do is have a title that makes you sound like a rail expert to dupe credulous journalists into repeating your claims without question - and in fact using those claims to put Mehdi Morshed on the defensive when the charge, that the EIS documents are inaccurate, is complete nonsense and lacks a factual basis.
The ABC News article linked above on Obama's forthcoming announcement falls into a similar trap - except this time it's the other big HSR denier, the Cato Institute, that gets the ink:
"You might as well have the government invest in nuclear-powered bicycles," [Daniel] Mitchell added. "That's probably the only thing I could imagine that would be more of a waste of money than inter-city rail."
Riiiiight. Because god forbid we try to get America off oil, reduce carbon emissions, provide jobs and economic growth. Oh wait, Cato Institute doesn't believe it's government's role to provide any of those things. Sorry that our national priorities and the public will conflict with your nutty ideology.
It's a shame that the media sees its job as providing "he said, she said" stenography and passing it off as objective journalism, instead of actually drilling down to the truth of the matter. Still, with President Obama's extremely strong support for HSR, we have some powerful allies to help push back against this nonsense. Obama spoke highly of HSR on his recent swing through Europe:
"I am always jealous about European trains," Obama said April 3 in Strasbourg, France. "And I said to myself, 'why can't we have high-speed rail?' And so, we're investing in that as well."
I look forward to hearing the details of that investment later this week.