Bobby Jindal’s Newfound HSR Enthusiasm

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"Bobby Jindal’s Newfound HSR Enthusiasm"

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When last we met Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, he was trashing his reputation for intelligence and seriousness about public policy with this nonsensical attack on trains and volcano monitoring as wasteful:

JINDAL: While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a “magnetic levitation” line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called “volcano monitoring.”

Now my colleague Lee Fang observes that Jindal seems to love trains:

The AP reported earlier this month that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-LA) administration is planning to request $300 million dollars from the federal government to develop a high-speed rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The trains, which would run at about 79mph, would be part of a larger Gulf Coast rail plan with top speeds of 110mph. Much of the money, however, comes from the Recovery Act, a stimulus measure Jindal not only opposed, but recently called a failure.

I haven’t looked at this issue in detail, but on the face of it a Baton Rouge to New Orleans line actually does sound to me like a wasteful project. We’re talking about connecting the 46th largest metro area in the country to the 67th largest, which suggests that there are a lot of city pairs that ought to be higher priorities. Compare that to Chicago (number three) and Milwaukee (number 39) or consider that the state of Florida contains four separate metro areas (Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville) that are all larger than New Orleans. According to Google, the drive between these cities only takes an hour and a half. You could imagine this working, and of course if the state of Louisiana has some vision for it I wouldn’t want to discourage them, but as a use of federal money this strikes me as pretty low down the list of rail projects I would want to fund.

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