You can thank Cedric Richmond for this, since he undoubtedly threw it into the hopper when the infrastructure bill was being cobbled together. Either way, it’s proof that bad ideas simply do not die when it comes to public policy, particularly if those bad ideas hold the promise of graft for sticky-fingered politicians and non-profit grifters.
Down the drain go hundreds of millions of your tax dollars, toward a passenger choo-choo that no one will ride.
Local economic development leaders are applauding the inclusion of $80 billion in President Biden’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure package to expand passenger rail service around the country, as it could be the first step toward funding a long-sought commuter rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Though Biden’s American Jobs Plan, released Wednesday, does not specifically list the new routes that would be funded, the bill contains language about the importance of funding new commuter lines between “city pairs,” such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Meanwhile, Amtrak unveiled a map Wednesday showing its plans to expand routes to up to 160 communities over the next 15 years that includes the New Orleans-Baton Rouge link.
Taken together, the funding in the bill and the new map are the most hopeful signs yet that commuter rail between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which ended in 1969, could again become a reality, says Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain, who has spearheaded local efforts over the past decade to revive passenger rail service between the state’s two largest cities.
“It’s a very exciting day,” Spain says. “That doesn’t mean they’ll start tomorrow but it does mean a potential funding source has been identified and in Amtrak’s plan, Baton Rouge-New Orleans is on the list.”
While the development is a huge boost for the project, there’s still a long way to go. For starters, the Biden bill is already controversial in a divided Congress. Then, even if it passes with the $80 billion for rail intact, Louisiana would have to apply for the funding for the Baton Rouge-New Orleans expansion.
Based on a 2014 study, infrastructure improvements alone would cost some $300 million-$400 million for the new commuter line.
But local economic development leaders with the South Louisiana Super Region Committee are optimistic.
Building a rail line along a corridor which is more accessible by car than it will ever be by rail is a contemptuous waste of your money, so you’ll know.
Here’s how absurd this is: the line, as previously proposed, would make some five different stops between downtown New Orleans and downtown Baton Rouge. It would take more than 90 minutes one way. When traffic is heavy that same trip is 75 minutes by car, and even with today’s inflated gas prices thanks to the policies of the same administration which is now pushing this stupid idea it would be cheaper to drive than to buy a one-way ticket at the price the passenger rail line has proposed.
That doesn’t count the cost of a taxi or Uber to get where you’re going once you get off that train.
Nobody will ride it.
Oh, comes the retort, but people from Baton Rouge will use the train to go out in New Orleans. Then they’ll get back on the train and come home.
Right. They’ll do that once. When they endure the ride home with the people who occupy commuter rail trains late at night, it’ll cure them of ever doing it again.
$400 million for that?
And don’t pretend that what happens on a commuter train in New York wouldn’t happen between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, two cities ranking among the nation’s worst when it comes to murder rates.
Build this, and when you see what you’ll get just remember that most of the money being spent on it will be heading straight into the pockets of the connected crooks who have been trying to jam that hosepipe into your wallet for a decade. You will derive zero benefit from the empty train they’ll produce, if they even produce it, but they sure will.