Hawaiian $1 billion-a-mile rail boondoggle a warning to Biden 'Build Back' plan
Category: News & PoliticsVia: texan1211 • one month ago • 28 comments
By: Paul Bedard (MSN)
He loves trains and wants to spend $80 billion for rail projects in his $2.2 trillion infrastructure goal, but today a top GOP lawmaker is flashing a yellow warning light at President Biden's plan, citing the example of a massive boondoggle and decades-delayed "shovel ready" project.
© Cathy Bussewitz/AP In this May 18, 2017, file photo, a rail line under construction winds through the Honolulu suburb of Aiea, Hawaii. Honolulu is building one of the nation's most expensive rail lines to address some of the nation's worst traffic but tax revenue declines during the pandemic and spiraling costs mean it doesn't currently have enough money to finish the 20-mile route as planned.
In latest uncovering of federal pork for her "Make 'em squeal award," Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst pointed to a long-delayed and way over budget 20-mile rail project in Hawaii to caution a rush to spend federal tax dollars freely in infrastructure projects touted as ready to go by local governments.
"This rail service began as one of those 'shovel ready' projects funded by the Obama-Biden stimulus program a decade ago. While never completed, it's still digging a deeper money pit for taxpayer dollars," she said.
Initially set to be completed in January 2020 for $5.1 billion, the 20-mile rail line now might not be ready until 2033 and cost at least $21 billion. And, said Ernst, to dig into the Biden spending plan, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation plans to spend $1 million on lobbyists.
With promises of infrastructure riches, lobbyists are working with state and local government clients to rush their proposals to Washington for the Biden plan which sets aside a small percentage of the $2.2 trillion for traditional projects like rail, roads and bridges.
Just as former President Obama did in 2009, so-called "shovel ready" projects are expected to be prioritized. Biden also wants them to be "shovel-worthy," according to officials.
But Ernst is eager for the administration and lawmakers to look deeper at the projects before signing contracts.
Her concerns are rooted in other boondoggles she's uncovered, notably California's estimated $100 billion high speed rail project that the administration has cited as an example of projects it wants to support.
Instead of Biden's slogan of "Build Back Better," said Ernst, "I vote we change the slogan to: 'Bailout Bankrupt Boondoggles.' That's more appropriate for Washington's track record of finding new ways to fund failed projects."
And citing the Hawaii rail project's failings, she pushed for passage of her "Billion Dollar Boondoggle Ban Act" to stop federal spending on projects $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule, and the "Earmark Elimination Act" to stop lawmakers from spending on pet projects.
Tags:Washington Secrets, Joe Biden, Biden Administration, Railroads, Hawaii, Joni Ernst, 100 Days Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure Week
Original Author:Paul Bedard
Original Location:Hawaiian $1 billion-a-mile rail boondoggle a warning to Biden 'Build Back' plan