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Letter to the editor: If we spend enough money will passenger rail dream come true?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 1:23 pm

In 2008, President Obama assured us that, if only the federal government would spend close to $1 trillion to stimulate the economy, 5 million new jobs would be created and the unemployment rate would go down. When the jobs didn’t materialize, he said, “I guess there weren’t as many shovel-ready jobs as we thought.” Other Democrats said $1 trillion just wasn’t enough, so that’s why the jobs weren’t created.

Geoff Paddock takes this reasoning further by stating that if only the federal and state governments will spend $1.1 billion on a passenger rail line between Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, that 26,000 full-time jobs would be created.

He says over 2 million people a year would ride this line. Where does he get this number? I don’t know anyone in Fort Wayne who wants to go to Columbus, more than once in their lifetime.

Paddock justifies the cost by saying passenger rail costs only $3.7 million per mile as compared to $15 million-$20 million for interstate highways.

The difference is obviously that the people who use the interstate highways actually pay for the highways with their gasoline taxes, license fees and other use taxes. On the other hand, everyone would have to pay for the passenger rail service even though only a small number would actually use it.

Looking at passenger rail service already in Indiana, the most successful line has probably been the South Shore Line that runs to Chicago from northern Indiana. It operates at one half the cost of Amtrak.

But The New-Sentinel reported that it has had declining ticket sales every year for the last six years. It takes in $907,000 in ticket sales but costs $3.9 million to operate. So it needs a lot of state and local tax money to stay open.

The other somewhat successful rail line in Indiana is the Hoosier State Line running between Chicago and Indianapolis. But the state has to sink $4 million a year to keep it from closing, and the ridership is declining with the service down to four days a week.

It seems that the Democrats think if the government just spends enough money, dreams will come true.

Kent Ober