While I generally agree with the premise that large corporations should not receive public subsidies, understanding the longstanding distortion of transportation economics in the U.S. causes me to disagree with the story by Kara Wilbeck ["Gravy Train," WW, Feb. 8, 2012].
This distortion does immeasurable harm to our economy and health. Roadways (especially trucking) are heavily subsidized (both directly and indirectly).
Freight rail is the only mode of transportation that is generally expected to acquire, develop, maintain, police, signalize and pay taxes on all of its rights of way. All other modes (highway, aviation and waterways) rely in part or in whole on tax dollars to acquire, develop, maintain, police and signalize their tax-free rights of way. Now, tell me, who is being subsidized?!
Taxes on railroad rights of way help pay for schools, law enforcement, fire departments—even roads, airports and waterway-navigation improvements.
So when a relatively small amount of public funds is invested in a rail line that will help keep heavy trucks off the "freeways" to avoid increased burdens on the taxpayer, please don't complain about "subsidizing" Union Pacific. Rail is far more efficient in terms of labor, energy, land use, the environment and health (trauma and other diseases) than roadways. Investment in rail and public transportation is a key to a healthy future.
BRIDGE ON THE RIVER, WHY?
Isn't there a fair point to be made about this ["Still Big, Still Costly," WW, Feb. 8, 2012] having some chicken-and-egg element to it? You plan a big bridge because you want a big bucket of federal money. But you don't have that money in hand, so [you] have to continually play the "if we don't get it" game. Even the downsizing discussion is based primarily on the lack of funds, not on the physical structure. Ideally, the word "right" in "right-sizing" would relate to the bridge itself, not to the costs or available funds.
What they don't want us to know is the cost if they built just a 12-lane bridge for the same (inflation-adjusted) cost as the I-205 bridge, per square foot: $382 million. That's right—we can build 10 bridges for the cost of the current CRC proposal!
What a perfectly lovely thing to read over coffee this morning ["Pet Love," WW Feb. 8, 2012]. We are at our absolute best when it comes to our animals. I forgot to get in my valentine to my five fellas, but let it be said that Henry, Piggy, Wilbur, Max and Pawdder are the truest loves I have ever known.
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