The following was posted today on my Lynch at Large blog.
David is a fine guy and calling him a “worm,” as I did earlier today on Twitter may have been somewhat harsh. On the other hand, it may have been a severe disservice to worms, which have a useful purpose.
Sanders’ recent column in the Stephens Media Group deals with two things that anoy him. The first items is various plans to shake up “a system of health care that works well for most Americans.” Without getting knee deep into it, let’s just say that Republican conservatives truly do live in an alternate universe.
Of much greater import is Mr. Sanders ill-considered attempt at a discussion of transportation policy. In the same column, he colors the decision by the state Highway Commission to seek $100,000 in matching funds from the Federal Railroad Administration for a story of the proposed high speed rail corridor from Memphis to Little Rock as “idiotic.”
The use of such derisive terms, of course, conceals an inability or unwillingness to consider factual elements of other viewpoints. Sanders has his mind, foggy as it is, firmly made up.
Why should we spend a dime on studying this? Here are the results: To build, operate and maintain a high-speed rail system would cost billions of dollars. Who would ride it, the thousands of people commuting from Little Rock to Memphis orTexarkana to Little Rock everyday? They don’t exist.
The real shame of this is that David Sanders really is a bright guy and such dribble is merely symptomatic of the intellectual fatigue so prevalent in the realm of so-called conservatives.
The “results” to which Sanders so proudly points are easily refuted.
- the billions of dollars supposedly needed presupposes the institution of true European-style high speed rail. Trains that operate at 200 mph. require special right-of-way builtspecifically for that use from the ground up.
- The Federal Railroad Administration recognizes as a category of high speed rail development something called “high performance rail.” Such facilities are conventionaltrains operating at around or over 110 mph.
- High performance rail makes use of existing railroad tracks and relies on upgrading tracks, sidings, cross-overs, signals, dispatching, and whatever else is necessary to operate at speeds higher than the 79 mph. maximum allowed Amtrak out in this part of the country (and the actual speeds are shockingly below that).
- Because developing high performance rail does not require buying land or the higher demands of 200 mph. operation, the cost is significantly lower. We are still talking hundreds of millions, but not millions.
- The corridor in question effectively extends from Fort Worth to Memphis. Although the original designation was Little Rock-Fort Worth, the extension to a larger population base in Memphis makes this route more attractive and viable. Of course, that should be determined by a professional study (which might prove more reliable and informative than Sanders’ right knee jerk).
- Spreading initial planning and associated costs among three states is an added benefit. Furthermore, this project could conceivably connect three airports, including two of America’s busiest on each end. This makes potential public-private partnerships more possible.
- Had we used Sanders’ illogical argument that nobody travels along this route, we would never have built the interstate highway system. (Alright, I am bending David’s argument, but only a tiny fraction. You get the picture.)
- The I-40 corridor between Little Rock and Memphis is among the most congested. There is a little tid-bit I picked up at the recent Intermodal Transportation Committee meeting in Little Rock. Very many people with business on either end might gladly hop on for a quick ride.
- Many people “commute” between the Little Rock and Memphis airports for airline connections. If the system were designed to reach airports, we have new and exciting travel possibilities.
- The existence of high performance rail service between Memphis and Fort Worth would be especially beneficial to smaller cities such as Searcy, Arkadelphia, Texarkana, Marshall, and Longview. This would open up possibilities for college students, people doing business with state agencies, and people with doctor’s appointments in any of the region’s medical centers.
- The economic benefits of drawing a region’s cities closer together for easier trade and commerce ought to be obvious, but that will have to be demonstrated in the professional study which David Sanders has already conducted inside his somewhat narrow mind.
David, you’re still my friend and I know damn good and well you just wrote that idiotic babble to get a little rise out of old Lyncho. For goodness sakes, let’s try to think about more than how things have always been.
Texas has 16 million people living in the “footprint” of the proposed Texas T-bone high speed rail project. It would be a 200 mph. true European style system. Whether or not that particular network is constructed, Texas will face such transportation needs that it will have real inter-city high speed rail. Arkansas should be part of a connecting service.
It is an accident of geography that Arkansas so benefits from the junction of interstate highways at the center of America. We should likewise have enough sense to take part in a similar movement in the form of both high speed rail and high performance rail.
Finally, I really like David Sanders, while abhorring his politics. I hope we get to sort all this out over lunch soon!