The President-elect has suggested that building green infrastructure should be a component of his plan to boost the economy.
I agree. And I've said here before that it should be 30-year property, things that continue to pay for themselves many times over in the course of their useful lives.
So here is a modest proposal. Train tracks. Trains save energy over other forms of transportation. Train tracks are cheaper to build than highways.
We should start with one in particular, a line that will roughly parallel I-35 from Mexico to Canada that bypasses major urban centers. This has many benefits:
- It dramatically increases our trade-handling capacity, especially with our largest partners, Canada and Mexico.
- It takes an enormous load off already overburdened Interstate highways.
- It's incredibly efficient. Railroads can save 50-75% on fuel over trucks, and switching to other fuels is as simple as building new locomotives.
- This will really piss off Republican politicians in Texas.
Wouldn't it be better to talk with folks who are already making money about where the government should invest your tax dollars at a profit? As opposed to those with broken business models?
The line would pay for itself. We lease it back to any rail line wanting to use it, for a surcharge. Easy to pay off over a fixed period of time. When economic conditions improve, sell the whole line. How would those now fighting the Trans Texas Corridor react to the idea of a rail alternative? Same economic bang for a much smaller economic buck.
Is I-35 not the most overburdened corridor? I'm sure the nation's rail execs will have their own ideas. But these are the people we need to be talking with, because their transport is already pretty efficient.
A new transcontinental railroad corridor, or a set of corridors, would even help our cities. I have a major corridor outside my door here in Atlanta, and while it's no great burden imagine if there were another corridor paralleling it, 50 miles away? It would interconnect with the lines coming into the city but allow many trains to bypass the city, saving hours off their trip times. Plus, if freight is making less use of that line, it's available for commuter rail.
Look, they built this bridge to the 19th century. Trains should use it.