Here we are staring at a Grecian-esque economy and the pigs are still squealing at the trough. The morally and figuratively bankrupt stooges in Charlotte, North Carolina are high-fiving the Obama administration’s “strong endorsement” of building a light-rail line extension.
The Obama administration gave a strong endorsement for Charlotte's $1 billion light-rail extension Tuesday, by budgeting $70 million for construction and engineering for the upcoming year and predicting that it will give the project its full approval in the fall.
"We don't expect anything to derail it," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff Tuesday. "We are very supportive of this project. We don't see any show-stoppers."
Rogoff said he expects the final paperwork - known as a Full Funding Grant Agreement - to be signed later this year. That would commit the federal government to roughly $530 million in construction money, about half of the line's $1.07 billion cost
Don’t see any show-stoppers? How about $15 trillion federal debt? Shouldn’t that be a show-stopper? Or how about the fact that Mecklenburg County is already under budget restraints, and must by law produce a balanced budget. Where are they going to get the rest of the money to build this line? According to the Charlotte Observer, CATS and the N.C. Department of Transportation will chip in another 25%. That still leaves a big ass hole. And these people are not even taking in consideration budget overruns.
And let’s not forget operational and maintenance cost.
But the Lynx appears to be facing some of the financial challenges that have affected other rail systems nationwide: How to pay for ongoing maintenance.
Last year, Peter Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration said that rail systems nationwide had billions in deferred maintenance. He questioned whether the federal government should help cities financially to build new rail lines when those cities are struggling to maintain the rail lines they already have.
CATS plans to extend the current light-rail line from uptown to UNC Charlotte. CATS has decided against building the line to Interstate 485 to save money, but the transit system has said it will still be a challenge to finish the $900 million project.
Steve Polzin of the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research said the operating cost increases are large and could make it difficult for CATS to expand.
"Can that number jeopardize future plans?" he said.
CATS has struggled to correctly project how much transit projects will cost. There have been cost overruns on the construction side, and the transit system has underestimated the cost of operating its system.
In 2006, CATS projected the Lynx Blue Line would cost $11.4 million to operate in fiscal year 2012, which begins in July. The most recent estimate is that light-rail will cost $14.6 million
You would think that our sage politicians and bureaucrats would’ve learned from their mistakes, but that would take a small measure of commonsense. And that is one budget item these people will never have a surplus in.