Heartland Institute Reacts to $196.5 Million High-Speed Rail Grant for Chicago to Detroit Line

October 06, 2011

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Michigan $196.5 million to help kick-start a high-speed rail line between Detroit and Chicago. Meanwhile, the state of Michigan announced it would buy tracks between Kalamazoo and Dearborn for $140 million.

The following statements from experts at The Heartland Institute may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below or contact Tammy Nash at tnash@heartland.org or 312/377-4000.

“The only thing high speed about the so-called Detroit to Chicago high-speed rail line is how fast its costs are rising. The system has nearly doubled in cost from its original estimates and even as it heads toward a final cost of $1.5 billion, will represent little or no improvement on travel times by car. Speeds of 110 miles per hour may sound impressive, but it is not the top speed that determines the travel time, it is the average speed.

“With the country facing serious financial difficulties and Michigan facing gargantuan challenges of its own, it is hard to imagine a more reckless expenditure. Finally, with the federal high-speed rail program virtually grinding to a halt, even the automobile travel times that are projected will probably never be achieved.”

Wendell Cox
Senior Fellow, Urban Planning
The Heartland Institute

“Cutting 30 minutes of travel time for the few people who ride trains between Detroit and Chicago is an absurd waste of taxpayers’ money. The Obama administration and the state of Michigan are just spending money for the sake of spending money, hoping that calling it an ‘investment’ will somehow stimulate the economy. More than a trillion dollars of stimulus have failed, and this money will likewise be wasted.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute

“The Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee last month included a mere $100 million for high-speed rail in its Fiscal Year 2012 budget recommendation, following House budget-makers who recommended no more money. There is now bipartisan recognition that high-speed rail could be the poster child for government boondoggles.

“Michigan is one of approximately one dozen states that have recently received money from the Federal Railroad Administration, which is rushing out as much grant money as it can before lawmakers rescind monies that have not been obligated. It’s a scattergun approach that will, at best, provide only minor improvements to rail service at costs that far exceed the benefits.”

Steve Stanek
Research Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor
Budget & Tax News

The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois; Washington, DC; Austin, Texas; Tallahassee, Florida; and Columbus, Ohio. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.