Tuesday, November 23, 2010

 

DERAILING THE "TOMMOROWLAND EXPRESS."

From Woody Guthrie's hobo lullaby "The City of New Orleans", through Billy Strayhorn's "Take The A Train", and Glenn Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo"; musicians, troubadours and poets reflect the nature of their times with their compositions. Though troubling, it wasn't all surprising that songs performed during last weekend's "American Music Awards" in Los Angeles included "Times Like These" performed by Kid Rock; and "Pray" by teen-pop idol, Justin Beiber.

It was just about one year ago that U.S. President Barack Obama in a much publicized speaking engagement in Tampa, Florida rolled-out his Administration's plan to develop a nationwide multi-billion dollar high-speed rail system as a significant element of his nation's efforts to reduce energy costs; get cars off choked highways; and fight the release of CO2 gasses into the atmosphere. Florida was among the first state expected to benefit from the program with a 168 MPH train link between Tampa and Orlando, and future plans to extend the system south to Miami and then north along the Atlantic coast to Jacksonville.

Now Florida is on the verge of becoming the biggest train wreck yet along Mr. Obama's much touted plan. So far the state has received $2-Billion (70% of total cost) from the Federal Government for the rail link set to launch in 2015. But; brimming with confidence from this month's mid-term Congressional elections, and vowing to rein-in government spending; Republican conservatives have zeroed-in on "high-speed rail" as wasteful and too expensive at a time when all levels of governments are dealing with horrific budget pressures.

Critics claim the projects will only worsen the U.S. debt and will not attract sufficient riders in an American culture built around highways, automobiles and cheap gasoline. The backlash against rail projects as relief for congested roads and highways is rippling across the country. The "New York Times" has identified several projects already chopped: An $8.7 tunnel and rail line to connect New Jersey and New York has been cancelled by the Governor of New Jersey. - The Governor-elect of Wisconsin ran on a promise to kill a high-speed rail link between Milwaukee and Madison. - And; the Governor-elect of Ohio has promised to stop plans for a similar project in his state. As for Florida the Republican Governor-elect, Rick Scott, claims it isn't too late to knock the train off the tracks here as well.

In Canada, the government of Prime-Minister Stephen Harper has already signalled it plans to reign-in federal spending to slay our ballooning deficit closing-in on $60 Billion in the current fiscal year. It's already withdrawn funding for Edmonton's plan to host the 2017 "World Fair"; and may be setting the stage to kibosh the Quebec City bid for the 2022 "Olympic Winter Games" by denying funding for a new arena which might also accommodate a new "Nordiques" NHL franchise. If America is to set the trend: The City of Ottawa's plan for a $3-Billion underground "light-rail" system; VIA Rail plans for high-speed links in the Quebec City/Windsor corridor; and subway extensions in both Toronto and Montreal; might very well be tempting targets to "spread the pain" as pressure intensifies to control spending.

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