The One Question They Never Answer.

Doing battle with the anti-Amtrak, anti-rail people is frustrating. They never offer solutions. They just go bonkers at the idea of tax dollars being used to subsidize Amtrak.

Of course, the Highway Trust Fund, which is where money from the federal gas tax goes, only covers half the cost of building roads; all the rest of the highway construction is paid for – subsidized! – directly with tax dollars. Why don’t we ever hear a peep about that?

And, as I have noted here numerous times before, state and municipal governments subsidize the airlines by building and maintaining airports; the federal government chips in by paying for the air traffic control system.

Furthermore, I guarantee that wherever you live your local bus or metro system is heavily subsidized. If it weren’t, fares would have to be doubled overnight … at least!

But here’s the question the anti-rail people never want to deal with:

With the U.S. population projected to increase 13 percent by 2025, how are they planning to move all those people? By building more roads?

In urban areas, the high cost of buying the land for right-of-way, of relocating utilities, and of evening work restrictions, means that every lane of new highway can cost anywhere from $17 to $76 million dollars per mile. In other words, a six-lane elevated highway running ten miles through an urban area could cost from one to five billion dollars … and the interchanges are extra.

And, finally, remember that a single track on a rail line has a carrying capacity 20 times that of a lane of highway.

Unfortunately, facts and logic and thoughtful discourse will not change the minds of the anti-Amtrak ideologues. But the least we can do is refuse to let them off the hook. We have to keep asking how they plan to move another 40 million Americans.