Fighting for Pork

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  #1  
Old 03-05-2011, 06:27 AM
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Default Fighting for Pork

There has been a great deal of heat and very little light in the discussions of high-speed rail in Florida. Governor Scott's decision to kill the project was sound for two reasons: (1) Using the DOT figures, the line will run at a loss of over $10 million per year even assuming it comes in on time and on budget; (based on the history of such projects) the Boston 'Big Dig' was estimated to cost $2.8 billion when it was started - the final number came in excess of $22 billion. The city of Boston and the State of Massachusetts will be responsible for a significant portion of that overrun. While this is a gigantic example, I cannot find a single project where DOT came in ahead of schedule and under budget; (2) the DOT projects over two million riders per year on this train.

After living over thirty years in Central Florida, I can find no credible reason to ride this train other than curiosity. The train's stop's include the Orlando Airport, the Orlando Convention Center, Disney, Lakeland and downtown Tampa. Existing bus transportation provided by Disney will get tourists to the Magic Kingdom faster and less expensively that this train. The Convention center travelers will similarly find the train offers no advantage. Citizens of Orlando will find it much easier to drive to either Disney or the Convention center than going to the Airport and paying to park their cars and schlep their baggage. I know of no one who wants to go to Lakeland.

The only reason for taking the train to Tampa would be to have a group that then can take a bus to a destination such as Raymond James Stadium (the Tampa Bay Bucs) and return home with a chance to sober up on the return.

I can think of no reason to take a train from downtown Tampa to the Orlando airport.

The reaction from the DOT to sensible decisions such as the one to kill FL high-speed rail, Ohio high speed rail and New Jersey's decision to kill a new rail project to NYC has been so say, if you do not want the money we will 'give' it to someone else. The thought of not spending it and reducing the deficit seems foreign to them.

Senator Nelson is infuriated by Governor Scott's decision. After all, didn't he do his job as a Senator and 'bring home the bacon'? Yes he did, but today we need representatives who realize that bacon is pork. Rather than supporting congressmen and senators who get pet projects for us, we need to condemn them for not looking to the country's future.
  #2  
Old 03-05-2011, 07:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQMan View Post
There has been a great deal of heat and very little light in the discussions of high-speed rail in Florida. Governor Scott's decision to kill the project was sound for two reasons: (1) Using the DOT figures, the line will run at a loss of over $10 million per year even assuming it comes in on time and on budget; (based on the history of such projects) the Boston 'Big Dig' was estimated to cost $2.8 billion when it was started - the final number came in excess of $22 billion. The city of Boston and the State of Massachusetts will be responsible for a significant portion of that overrun. While this is a gigantic example, I cannot find a single project where DOT came in ahead of schedule and under budget; (2) the DOT projects over two million riders per year on this train.

After living over thirty years in Central Florida, I can find no credible reason to ride this train other than curiosity. The train's stop's include the Orlando Airport, the Orlando Convention Center, Disney, Lakeland and downtown Tampa. Existing bus transportation provided by Disney will get tourists to the Magic Kingdom faster and less expensively that this train. The Convention center travelers will similarly find the train offers no advantage. Citizens of Orlando will find it much easier to drive to either Disney or the Convention center than going to the Airport and paying to park their cars and schlep their baggage. I know of no one who wants to go to Lakeland.

The only reason for taking the train to Tampa would be to have a group that then can take a bus to a destination such as Raymond James Stadium (the Tampa Bay Bucs) and return home with a chance to sober up on the return.

I can think of no reason to take a train from downtown Tampa to the Orlando airport.

The reaction from the DOT to sensible decisions such as the one to kill FL high-speed rail, Ohio high speed rail and New Jersey's decision to kill a new rail project to NYC has been so say, if you do not want the money we will 'give' it to someone else. The thought of not spending it and reducing the deficit seems foreign to them.

Senator Nelson is infuriated by Governor Scott's decision. After all, didn't he do his job as a Senator and 'bring home the bacon'? Yes he did, but today we need representatives who realize that bacon is pork. Rather than supporting congressmen and senators who get pet projects for us, we need to condemn them for not looking to the country's future.
Your post makes sense to me.
  #3  
Old 03-05-2011, 08:26 AM
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Let me shed a little light.

First off, comparisons to Boston's Big Dig are, to put it midly, unfair. To put it reasonably, they're delusional. I'll explain later.

Secondly, the Tampa to Orlando leg was the START. The project was specifically chosen so that there could be an example up and running as soon as possible. This was always intended to be part of a larger plan, akin to the old FOX plan (FLorida Overland eXpress) to connect much more of Florida via high speed rail. The theory went that, once people got a taste of Tampa to Orlando, an extension to Miami would be built. ANyone who's ridden a train in Europe can tell you the appeal. [Especially in light of the actions of the Court Jesters who run the TSA]

Now, the reasons behind why the Big Dig comparisons are unfair. I'll hit some bullet points.

The original $2B estimate was for depressing the Central Artery (I-93) ONLY. And that estimate was made in the late 1970s. There's been some inflation since then.

There were political arguments about funding EITHER depressing I-93 OR extending I-90 (the Mass. Turnpike) from Boston to Logan Airport via a 3rd harbor tunnel. The "compromise" was to do both (pay off both legislator's interests).

The Ted Williams Tunnel (I-90 to Logan Airport) came in ahead of schedule and under budget.

Massachusetts was inundated with extortion requests from people who said construction would ruin them. Spaulding Rehab Hospital tried to blackmail MA into buying their hospital near North Station, saying that patients would die because parking would be more difficult during construction and that would drive visitors away. They wanted the state to buy not only the hospital site but to finance their relocation to another site in Newton. Another example was a shelter that used an abandoned building (the business was bought out by the state and left when the agreement was made, which was years before construction came to their area). They were told it was temporary. When the construction schedule caught up with them, they demanded the state pay to move them, even though they knew fmro the get-go that this was temporary. There was a lot of what they called "mitigation". I called it "blackmail".

The pricetag is actually $14.5B. The $20B+ numbers are including the interest on many of the bonds for the next 20 years.

Most importantly, construction didn't go as planned. They had to invent NEW KINDS of construction. The wildest of which was the Fort Point CHannel Tunnel. They had to tunnel UNDER an existing rail mainline that saw hundreds of Amtrak and MBTA commuter rail trains per day. In addition, they had to go OVER the MBTA Red Line subway tunnel - which they had to tunnel UNDER for the I-93 northbound tunnel. The soil turned out to be VERY unstable so they INVENTED a methodology where they injected liquid nitrogen filled pipes into the ground, froze it solid, built the tunnel 'boxes' and JACKED them horizontally UNDER the several rail tracks and OVER the Red Line tunnel. It's an UNBELIEVABLE piece of engineering. Nowadays it's considered the 'standard' way to stabilize soil for thee kinds of projects.

You have no idea of what the scope of this project was at the end compared to the beginning. It's a pretty unreal case of "feature creep" in all honesty but there were some amazing things that happened. Of course, not all the contractors did their job and a ceiling panel fell and killed a motorist. IMO, Parsons Brinkerhoff was never suitably punished for their willful negligence (they knew bolts were substandard and their methods were insufficient for attaching the panels and went ahead and did it anyway).

We KNOW how to build rail lines. The widening of I-4 was done RESERVING SPACE for it so you would be FAR less likely to have cost overruns. This is baby-food stuff in a climate that is construction-friendly year-round.

I find it interesting that Scott pushes more roads yet doesn't mention the increased subsidies THOSE will entail. We've LONG since gone over the budget of what the gas tax can pay for.
  #4  
Old 03-05-2011, 08:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djplong View Post
Let me shed a little light.

First off, comparisons to Boston's Big Dig are, to put it midly, unfair. To put it reasonably, they're delusional. I'll explain later.

Secondly, the Tampa to Orlando leg was the START. The project was specifically chosen so that there could be an example up and running as soon as possible. This was always intended to be part of a larger plan, akin to the old FOX plan (FLorida Overland eXpress) to connect much more of Florida via high speed rail. The theory went that, once people got a taste of Tampa to Orlando, an extension to Miami would be built. ANyone who's ridden a train in Europe can tell you the appeal. [Especially in light of the actions of the Court Jesters who run the TSA]

Now, the reasons behind why the Big Dig comparisons are unfair. I'll hit some bullet points.

The original $2B estimate was for depressing the Central Artery (I-93) ONLY. And that estimate was made in the late 1970s. There's been some inflation since then.

There were political arguments about funding EITHER depressing I-93 OR extending I-90 (the Mass. Turnpike) from Boston to Logan Airport via a 3rd harbor tunnel. The "compromise" was to do both (pay off both legislator's interests).

The Ted Williams Tunnel (I-90 to Logan Airport) came in ahead of schedule and under budget.

Massachusetts was inundated with extortion requests from people who said construction would ruin them. Spaulding Rehab Hospital tried to blackmail MA into buying their hospital near North Station, saying that patients would die because parking would be more difficult during construction and that would drive visitors away. They wanted the state to buy not only the hospital site but to finance their relocation to another site in Newton. Another example was a shelter that used an abandoned building (the business was bought out by the state and left when the agreement was made, which was years before construction came to their area). They were told it was temporary. When the construction schedule caught up with them, they demanded the state pay to move them, even though they knew fmro the get-go that this was temporary. There was a lot of what they called "mitigation". I called it "blackmail".

The pricetag is actually $14.5B. The $20B+ numbers are including the interest on many of the bonds for the next 20 years.

Most importantly, construction didn't go as planned. They had to invent NEW KINDS of construction. The wildest of which was the Fort Point CHannel Tunnel. They had to tunnel UNDER an existing rail mainline that saw hundreds of Amtrak and MBTA commuter rail trains per day. In addition, they had to go OVER the MBTA Red Line subway tunnel - which they had to tunnel UNDER for the I-93 northbound tunnel. The soil turned out to be VERY unstable so they INVENTED a methodology where they injected liquid nitrogen filled pipes into the ground, froze it solid, built the tunnel 'boxes' and JACKED them horizontally UNDER the several rail tracks and OVER the Red Line tunnel. It's an UNBELIEVABLE piece of engineering. Nowadays it's considered the 'standard' way to stabilize soil for thee kinds of projects.

You have no idea of what the scope of this project was at the end compared to the beginning. It's a pretty unreal case of "feature creep" in all honesty but there were some amazing things that happened. Of course, not all the contractors did their job and a ceiling panel fell and killed a motorist. IMO, Parsons Brinkerhoff was never suitably punished for their willful negligence (they knew bolts were substandard and their methods were insufficient for attaching the panels and went ahead and did it anyway).

We KNOW how to build rail lines. The widening of I-4 was done RESERVING SPACE for it so you would be FAR less likely to have cost overruns. This is baby-food stuff in a climate that is construction-friendly year-round.

I find it interesting that Scott pushes more roads yet doesn't mention the increased subsidies THOSE will entail. We've LONG since gone over the budget of what the gas tax can pay for.
Your post makes good points as well.
  #5  
Old 03-05-2011, 11:01 AM
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Default Where Have Our Leaders Gone?

I haven't studied this legislation and the Governor's decision at all. I can think of only one credible reason why governmental entities should be investing in a system of high speed rail. That has to do with trying to remain competitive among the advancing economies of the world, particularly China.

China is three years into a ten-year program to criss-cross the country with 23,000 miles of high speed rail. Their definition of "high speed rail" are routes and trains that can run at 220 miles per hour or faster! The system being built will cost China $300 billion (converted from the amount authorized by the Chinese government in Chinese yuang). I might note that this is about three times the amount we've spent fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001!

China's stated reason for building such a system is to expand their economy by enabling employers to build plants and employ people in the far reaches of the country which without such a transportation system would remain remote, agricultural local economies. The plan is to significantly increase average personal income by providing new jobs. Their plan would significantly expand the consumer economy in China, making the country a far more important player in the world, both consuming the products they produce as well as expanding their productivity beyond the few urban centers which currently benefit from advanced transportation systems as well as a power grid.

The United States made a similar decision under President Eisenhower when the interstate highway system was built. We know the effect of that decision. In the intervening years since funding was provided for it's construction in 1956, little more has been done to expand the highways other than to expand it to respond to population growth. The system has a total length of 46,876 miles making it both the largest highway system in the world and the largest public works project in history. However, it is expected to be exceeded in terms of size by the Chinese expressway system at some point in 2011. Of course, the Chinese transportation grid would be further improved by the high-speed rail project.

So, can a short leg of high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando be justified? Maybe not. But should our political leaders be discussing ways to regain some competitive advantage for the U.S. such as resulted from the interstate highway system a half century ago? Should they be discussing investments in education and the infrastructure of our economy? You make the judgement. The tea partiers will say that this is not the role of the federal government and that we can't afford it. I would argue that we can't afford not to make such public investments and that we ought to be looking at prioritizing how and where we spend federal dollars to achieve the most for U.S. citizens.

In the meantime, the U.S.Congress can't decide whether to fund a nationwide system of broadband communications. The cost of such a system would be less than we spend fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for just one month! Maybe it should be pointed out that Singapore, an economy that is growing at a rate far greater than the U.S. will launch it's new broadband network in 2012. The Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) is expected to be deployed nationwide in Singapore by 2012 to offer competitively priced broadband speeds from 100Mbps, scalable up to one Gbps (gigabit per second) and beyond. (That's about 30 times faster than the typical broadband cable connection here in the U.S.) It will be rolled out in workplaces, homes and schools, and even to outdoor locations. Beyond the boost in speeds, a competitive retail broadband services market will open doors to new advancements such as interactive Internet Protocol TV, telemedicine, interactive e-education. On the education front the plan is to permit children to be taught advanced science and math interactively over the internet rather than trying to train or attract the large number of teachers which would be needed to achieve the sought-after higher level of education over the entire country.

Even the economically depressed country of Ghana has recently authorized the government-funded construction of a nationwide broadband network as a building block for the expansion of their economy and educational system. The system was designed by A.T. Kearney, a U.S. consulting firm, and is being built by Huawei Technologies, a Chinese ICT and telecommunication firm.

Does any of this stuff make you angry over the short-sightedness of our political leaders? Does anyone think we can remain a viable economic leader in the world when many other governments are investing in the infrastructure to expand their economies and improve the education of their people who will use it while our leaders spend virtually all their energies raising money or posturing themselves to garner votes for re-election from their "base"?

Where have all our leaders gone?
  #6  
Old 03-05-2011, 11:34 AM
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I completely agree with Barbeque Man on this topic.

Hate to say it, but I also agree with Rick Scott on this issue.

Even us "liberal elitists" have common sense once in a while, don't we?
  #7  
Old 03-05-2011, 11:51 AM
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The real issue of HS rail is that to be more than just another
political bragging point and gain for special interests, it needs a national plan.
Some of us remember when there were no interstates. Well that is where we are on HS rail. A real HS rail system, that brings convenience, new jobs and reduced dependence on imported oil....it has to be a national plan with each state doing it's piece. Then some day 5-10-15-20 years down the road we would have something of value that in fact accomplishes it's objectives.
Unfortunately America just does not have the leadership any more to think, commit, act and follow through to accomplishment as we did so very well in the past.

It is not a partisan issue. It is a political issue supported by the entrenched business as usual in Washington...regardless who is in office. For the past 30 years Washington has not demonstrated any ability to do ANYTHING long term that solves our nation's ability to maintain it's standard of excellence in the world. They are very much like the 30-60 minute instant gratification episode oriented like one is entertained by on television.

Just pick any of the major issues facing the country...education = down...space exploration and product development = slowed to a crawl..
energy independence = zero progress...financial stability/deficit reduction = zero intent/accomplishment....just to name a few.
None of these have to do with the politicians individual needs therefore they are not a priority.
And as we did in November 2010 and as VK, myself and others have committed...do not vote for ANY incumbent. Our status domestically or world wide is not a partisan issue...it is individual politicians serving themselves.

btk
  #8  
Old 03-05-2011, 12:07 PM
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This project and other's like it that are not needed and only wanted are absurd on the face of it with the size of the National Debt at this time. This is not the time for utopian dreams.

Whatever happened to believing that the first thing to do to get yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.
  #9  
Old 03-05-2011, 01:55 PM
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This is EXACTLY the time for a utopian dream.

The cost of the interstates compared to the kinds of projects and budgets we had back then were UNTHINKABLE. The same holds true for a lot of the dams and other infrastructure projects that happened during the Great Depression.

Keep in mind what was said earlier - a lot of these projects come in at the cost of a few weeks of the Iraq/Afghan wars.

One thing I *do* certainly agree with is that we ARE in a hole. It's not so much that we need to stop digging as to look around and re-assess where the heck we are. We need more than an individual argument on whether this tax is too much or that spending item is too much.

Since one of Obama's failings that he shares with the GOP is the fact that there are too many sacred cows (nobody has yet really suggested a way to get most of the entitlements plus the military budget back under control).

According to one interview I saw last night, though, this might start changing soon. Apparently there ARE some studies under way which would start to propose some ideas that are akin to "We can save $xB if we extend the retirement ages by 'y' years and slow down COLAs by z%" (to use SOcial Security as an example)
  #10  
Old 03-05-2011, 02:34 PM
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Default Priorities

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichieLion View Post
...Whatever happened to believing that the first thing to do to get yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.
If things like a nationwide high-speed rail system, nationwide broadband internet, and substantial improvements in our failing system of education were actually made national priorities, they could all be funded with no increase in the national debt by simply stopping the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting out the waste in the defense budget, which is about half of what we spend in that department. We're funding planes and ships and military equipment that even the military doesn't want and says is inappropriate for the types of national defense threats we'll face in the future.

The problem is a lack of leadership and vision for this country and a willingness to establish some clear priorities and take the heat from the special interest groups who will oppose such new ideas. Unfortunately, unless some leaders appear--and soon--our children and grandchildren will be living in a decidedly second class country.
  #11  
Old 03-05-2011, 03:09 PM
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Default There is no leadership in Washington...none of the 565!!!

On any issue, they sit on the side line...wait and see which way the wind is blowing...then they pick the decision/direction that is sure to please those in their voting block...whether it is right or not...a priority or not.

The poster boy for this kind of non leadership is Obama. The reason he used to vote present when an Illinois senator was to participate without taking a position. Hence being able to be very Pontius Pilate like in his position(s).....just like he does on world issues and domestic priorities.

National priorities are not partisan! They are clear as a bell needs for this nation and it's people to regain/maintain it's FORMER glory.

Romney cited one good example today. US Corporations that are profitable overseas are not taxed on those profits UNLESS they bring them back to the USA!!! Just how much wisdom does it take to encourage these companies to bring that money back to the USA and invest it it factories/jobs here?
A non partisan no brainer change in the tax structure. However, without leadership business will continue as usual. It is estimated US companies have over a trillion $$$ horded over seas waiting for some one to wake up.

btk
  #12  
Old 03-06-2011, 07:17 AM
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When you hear things like the Air Force having multimillion dollar pallets of cash being delivered to tribal leaders who then give the money to the Taliban, you know there's Something Seriously Wrong.
 

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