Of Course, John Bel Touts The Stupid Passenger Train Idea

We’re so tired of talking about the idiotic plan to conscript your tax dollars to fund a passenger train between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. But we can’t, because the Democrats and ruling elite types in this state insist on talking about it.

There is no particular consensus toward building a passenger rail line or running passenger trains on existing tracks, and as we’ve noted several times there is zero reason to believe it could ever turn a profit or even generate significant ridership. But these people want what they want, and they won’t stop demanding it until they get it.

So now they’ve got a fresh new plan. Now it’s a “temporary” train, because I-10 through Baton Rouge is about to go under construction and that’s going to make for traffic nightmares which dwarf the usual crawl. Rather than having planned some alternative routes which would give some relief to motorists and commuters, we have to throw money under the train.

Traffic is expected to go from bad to worse in Baton Rouge when work gets started next year on the widening of Interstate 10. But if Gov. John Bel Edwards gets his way, motorists may be able to ditch their cars for a different transit option: rail.

Edwards this week asked state lawmakers to set aside $25 million in unspent federal American Rescue Plan funds to upgrade a passenger rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

It’s only a fraction of the estimated $260 million in improvements required to make the high-speed rail between the two cities a reality. But in the short term, it could fund a temporary service for workers traveling from Ascension Parish into Baton Rouge.

”It would not be a highspeed route, but it would be faster than being stuck in traffic,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told lawmakers at a hearing Tuesday where he presented the governor’s budget priorities.

The train would likely run from Sorrento to Baton Rouge and offer up to seven round trips a day, according to John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and a longtime advocate for passenger rail service.

Scheduled to begin in late 2023, the I-10 widening includes adding a new lane in both directions between Port Allen and the Interstate 10/Interstate 12 split, replacing the bridge over the City Park Lake and revamping the exit at College Drive for westbound motorists.

Essentially, what they think is people from New Orleans will go and park their cars in Sorrento where there would be a train station and then ride the train into downtown Baton Rouge. Or people from Prairieville, Gonzales and St. Amant would drive 10-15 minutes away from Baton Rouge to park in Sorrento and ride.

And the train would run seven round trips a day. That, assumedly, would include three morning runs and three afternoon runs.

So you’re going to take 10 minutes to get to the train station and park, then wait maybe as much as 45 minutes to an hour for the train, and then it’s 10 or even 20 minutes for the non-high-speed train to travel from Sorrento to downtown Baton Rouge, and then you’ve got to get transportation from the Baton Rouge train station to your destination.

Exactly why wouldn’t you just take Airline Highway or Highway 30 as an alternate route into town? Even if those turn into swamps with the additional traffic on them it’s still quicker than the hour and a half to two hours that train will take. Not to mention the increased cost of transportation in Baton Rouge plus the train trip, which will outstrip the cost of gas you’d have to drive in.

And the idea this will be a $25 million project paid for by the feds? Please don’t tell us you’re stupid enough to believe that.

That $25 million is to prepare the ground for the “temporary” train. It doesn’t pay for the operating costs of the line. Those will be considerably more, and no – based on the above, the demand for the train will not cover those operating costs.

In other words, this is one-time money going toward creating a recurring expense. Before Edwards came along and instituted the unbridled primacy of limitless governmental spending in this state, it was thought that using one-time money in this way was a political crime against sanity. Remember that? Bobby Jindal was irresponsible, but Edwards is a wise visionary.

John Spain, the outgoing head of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, has made a career out of spending other people’s money. He’s a non-profit guy. That means he engages in things which are not designed to make a profit. It’s hardly surprising that all he does these days is buffalo people about the stupid passenger train which is destined to lose millions of dollars every year and make a nonstop hole in Louisiana’s – and the federal government’s – budget.

As for Edwards, he’s simply desperate to have some sort of legacy as governor, because without it his time in office will be known as an eight-year hole in Louisiana’s history dotted with a few disastrous hurricanes and, oh yeah, Ed Orgeron won a national championship one year with Joe Burrow at quarterback (which Edwards did his best to glom on to). He’s never run anything but a tiny law office that due to family connections in corrupt Tangipahoa Parish was guaranteed to make money, so the idea that he, or his Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne who similarly has zero skills when it comes to launching, sustaining and developing an entrepreneurial venture into a profitable enterprise, would bet your money wisely on a rail line is laughable to the point of offense.

But politics rules over good sense in this state. And Louisiana’s legislature undoubtedly knows better than to believe this is anything other than idiocy. But do they have the stones to stand up to Edwards and tell him no on the passenger choo-choo?

Hopefully.

The one thing we can say is that it would be tough to imagine the people of Louisiana won’t elect someone as our next governor in the 2023 elections who’ll put a stop to this stupidity forthwith.

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