This dispute apparently involves the kingly sum of $120,000 (but, of course it IS the principle of the thing that counts!). The Alabama Highway Department refuses to pay the dues. The Birmingham Business Journal has most of the story for subscribers, but you can read what is public.
Alabama’s Southern neighbors are pointing accusatory fingers at the state, claiming its foot-dragging may derail an Atlanta-to-New Orleans high-speed rail line.
Members of the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission from Louisiana and Mississippi are eager to bid for a piece of the $9.3 billion earmarked in the federal stimulus package for inter-city, high-speed rail projects. But they say they are being held up because Alabama has not completed the necessary studies to request federal funds.
Birmingham is a logical hub for fast conventional trains to Atlanta, Nashville, Mobile, Memphis Jackson, and New Orleans, so this is really important. A story in Al.com explains that a conventional train operating from Birmingham to Atlanta at 110 mph. makes the trip in 90 minutes. So that would explain the stiff resistance from highway and trucking special interests.
he study would determine which tracks the train would use, ridership and costs, among other things. It is needed before the commission can tap into about $8 billion in federal stimulus money that has been set aside at the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop high-speed rail through 11 rail commissions nationwide.
“Because the state refuses to put up a couple of hundred thousand dollars, we could lose a couple of hundred million dollars,” Finley said. He faulted the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Shift in priorities:
ALDOT Director Joe McInnes said his department stopped paying the dues when he became director in 2003. “This department, by law, builds roads and bridges,” McInnes said. “We do not build railroads, airports or waterways.”
He said he also was concerned because neither Georgia nor Texas joined the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission.
The story notes that there is an involvement from the Mayor of Atlanta.
Let’s be clear, this is not some kind of wild-eyed 200 mph European style HSR that would require an entire new right-of-way and $10 billion. This is a project that could happen in a matter of years and bring instant economic benefits to everybody concerned (except airlines and truckers, and I don’t know what the Atlanta-Birmingham air travel market is like).