Louisiana Republican Rep. Anh Cao (R) recently appeared with local Democrats at a press conference urging Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) to reconsider his refusal to support a high-speed rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. But it seems that Cao hasn’t given up on prodding his fellow Republican.
"I was thoroughly disappointed when my state failed to file a" final high-speed rail application by the Oct. 2 deadline, Cao said today at a hearing of the House transportation committee’s railroads panel.
Cao called the proposed rail link a potentially "huge economic boost to the region," adding: "We worked very hard to secure support for the project [from] municipal governments as
well as parish governments … at a time when the state does not have
money to do so."
Yet even if Jindal had followed up on his state DOT’s initial plan to link New Orleans with the state capital, Louisiana’s chance of securing a slice of the $8 billion economic stimulus fund for high-speed rail would remain very much up in the air. Lawmakers at today’s hearing directly warned the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) to avoid spreading itself too thin in awarding rail grants.
"I don’t want to see ‘bridges to nowhere’ when it comes to high-speed rail," Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) said, referencing the famous Alaskan congressional earmark that would have connected drivers to an island with a population of less than 100.
Rep. Bud Shuster (R-PA), Brown’s fellow senior member on the railroads panel, echoed her concerns. Distributing high-speed rail money to "too many different places," he said, risks diluting the impact of the $8 billion stimulus fund.
Another reality check on the relative limits of $8 billion came from Susan Fleming, physical infrastructure director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Fleming reminded the railroads panel that the stimulus law’s high-speed rail fund "represents only a small fraction of the estimated costs for starting or enhancing service on the nation’s 11 federally authorized high speed rail corridors."