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Gubernatorial candidates seek to stall federally funded rail projects

Credit: Maricel Paz/Production Manager and Nikunja Kolluri/Managing Editor Credit: Maricel Paz/Production Manager and Nikunja Kolluri/Managing Editor

Infrastructure isn’t sexy. Passenger trains aren’t American. Republican governors and gubernatorial candidates aren’t going to play along with rail projects.

Yes, while we here at The Tartan continue to dream of a day when traveling by train in America is not considered an oddity but an obvious and valid mode of transport, the leaders and potential leaders of many states seem to have other plans in mind. One of President Barack Obama’s “signature initiatives,” according to The New York Times, is a plan for a rail network, federally supported to the tune of $8 billion. However, Republican gubernatorial candidates such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio are both running on no-train platforms that would force those states to give back the stimulus money that their predecessors competed for.

And while Kasich and Walker have been the most vocal, the opposition is more widespread, including Rick Scott of Florida and Meg Whitman of California. If Whitman is elected in California, she may delay one of the most ambitious rail links planned, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And earlier this month, the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, simply halted work on an $8.7 billion rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York that began last year. His reason was a “significant risk” of costs $5 billion higher than originally estimated, a cost estimate that has been challenged as “simply pulled out of thin air.”

While we understand that upgrading our legacy infrastructure to support the high-speed trains that would truly benefit the American populace is costly, the federal government’s commitment to completing these projects now should not be taken for granted — especially not if the decisions are being made for partisan reasons: to simply not support one more Obama project.

If the costs are actually not in the taxpayers’ interests, then the projects should be re-evaluated, but the goal should remain the same: to create transportation options that will support Americans in the coming decades.