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High-speed rail boondoggles are a dime a dozen, but President Joe Biden went for the big kahuna in his speech promoting his $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill on Wednesday. The president suggested that government research will enable trains to travel as fast as planes and commercial aircraft circling the world in “about an hour.” His promises may evoke the government intrusion into railroads that featured prominently in Ayn Rand’s classic novel Atlas Shrugged.
“When we do invest in research, what we’re really doing is raising the bar in what we can imagine. Imagine a world where you and your family can travel coast to coast without single tank of gas, or in a high-speed train, close to as fast as you can go across the country in a plane,” Biden said while touting the bill’s funding for infrastructure research.
The president went on to say that he promises kids on college campuses, “they’re going to see more change in the next 10 years than we’ve seen the last 50 years. We’re going to talk about commercial aircraft flying at subsonic speeds, supersonic speeds, be able to — figuratively, if we decided to do it — traverse the world in about an hour, travel 21,000 miles an hour.” (The globe’s circumference is 24,901 miles.)
Every American’s B.S.-detector should be blasting at maximum volume. While America has taken faltering first steps toward high-speed rail, beginning with the High Speed Ground Transportation Act in 1965, no nationwide project has taken off.
The Acela Express — which connects cities between Washington, D.C., and Boston — is the U.S.’s only high-speed rail service. While California voters first authorized funds for a high-speed rail train in the Golden State back in 2008, the costs continue to balloon and the Central Valley section is not slated to open until 2029, with Phase I completion planned for 2033.
Commercial supersonic transport ended in 2003 with the retirement of the Concorde fleet, which flew from Paris and London to New York in about 3.5 hours.
Biden’s air travel suggestion seems even more absurd. As The New York Post reported, the 21,000-miles-per-hour flight would be more than 15 times faster than the Concorde’s cruising speed.
Biden’s pie-in-the-sky notions only relate to tiny parts of his $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill.
A relatively small amount of money — $25 billion — is proposed for “transformative” projects that are “too large or complex for existing funding programs.” According to a New York Times analysis, only $55 billion is specifically marked for “research and development” or “research at H.B.C.U.s.” The Post reported that the bill includes $25 billion for “transformative” projects that are “too large or complex for existing funding programs.”
By comparison, the scaled-down version of California’s high-speed rail boondoggle has an estimated cost of $77.3 billion — and that doesn’t even cover all of California.
Only 10.5 percent of the $2.25 trillion bill deals with roads and bridges, passenger and freight railways, airports, waterways, and ports. Even including the money set aside for water systems, the elimination of lead pipes, and the restoration of federal buildings, these items only add up to $358 billion or 15.9 percent of the bill. The “infrastructure” bill dedicates a larger sum — $400 billion or 17.8 percent of the bill — to “in-home care” for the elderly and those with disabilities.
In Ayn Rand’s classic novel Atlas Shrugged, the heroine Dagny Taggart tries to update a railroad using superior metal, but her big-government brother undermines her efforts, trying to do business with shoddy but well-connected companies. Government intrusion hampers her efforts at every turn, and eventually she joins John Galt in disappearing from mainstream American society in a search for freedom from government intrusion.
Like the COVID-19 “relief” bill before it, Biden’s infrastructure bill represents another attempt to shoe-horn in Democratic priorities into a bill marketed as must-pass legislation. Biden’s pie-in-the-sky promises about high-speed rail and supersonic flight reveal just how desperate he is to dress up this boondoggle.