Omnibus money for local rail project

The $410 billion omnibus spending bill passed by the House today (not to be confused with the stimulus package), according to the Detroit Free Press, included up to $187 million in earmarks for Michigan. Analysis by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense shows that the bill contained over 8,500 earmarks total, with about 300 of them going to fund special projects in the Great Lakes state. Among those local earmarks are a $3.8 million to preserve a portion of the old Tiger Stadium, $30 million to maintain and run the Upper Peninsula’s Soo Locks, and $950,000 for the Ann Arbor – Detroit rail project that we’ve been talking so much about here on the site lately.

For what it’s worth, after signing the bill, Obama came out against earmarks, vowing to fight vigorously against them in the future… Here’s a clip from the Washington Post:

…Obama signed what he called an “imperfect” $410 billion measure to fund most government agencies through September. He used the occasion to criticize the more than 8,500 projects, costing more than $7.7 billion, that lawmakers inserted into the bill, and he declared that “this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand”…

As for that $950,000, it may sound like a lot, but I don’t know how far it’s likely to get us. Rail infrastructure is expensive. But, then again, maybe we don’t need that much to complete the project. From what I recall, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, running for Congress last August, took credit on many occasions for having already secured $100 million in federal funds for the line…. So now, I guess, we’ve got $101 million to work with, and maybe more through Obama’s big high-speed rail initiative.

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  1. Paw
    Posted March 12, 2009 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    I’d like someone, like a reporter at the Ann Arbor News, to do a story about the funding of this Ann Arbor to Detroit rail line. I’m having trouble figuring out how much money is coming in, what entities are receiving it, and how they’re spending it. I think it’s beyond the scope of what our local blogs are capable of covering. No offense to the blogs, but sometimes you need a journalist who can turn over stones and ask difficult questions.

  2. EOS
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Some of the most dangerous ideas are those which everybody automatically agrees with. Should we really spend more government money that we don’t currently have and that will add to our debt to build another rail line? Why? Is is that Amtrak is so wildly popular and profitable? Is it going to be high speed, or will it stop at every community on the route, making the train a much slower alternative to driving? What will the total cost be to passengers, taking into account taxes, fares, and the cost of transportation both to and from both ends of the train ride? What will be the cost to those who will never use the train service? Are all other government services so well funded that we can add additional tax burdens for this?

  3. John Gawlas
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    For those not familar with the proposed Detroit to Ann Arbor (or vice versa), you can get more information from the SEMCOG website –

  4. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s too late, EOS.

  5. EOS
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    John –
    Do you have any information that is current? The site you referenced says they don’t know how much it is going to cost or who will pay for it, but that it doesn’t qualify for Federal funds under the FTA New Starts program. Will we get a chance to vote on it or will we be forced to cut something else in the budget to pay for it? Does the $950,000 from the Omnibus mean that we are required to build it whatever the additional costs and then maintain operating expenses? What is the breakdown going to be for the city, county, state portions?

  6. John Gawlas
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    SEMCOG posted the last project update report (just a brief rundown of steps in progress)

    According to the info posted on their site…
    The region suspended the federal process and initiated a locally funded project to demonstrate that costs and ridership would be in a range to better qualify the project in the federal New or Small Starts program. This is an approach other regions have used as a first step toward a rapid transit system.

    Capital costs, ridership, and fare reports are being developed for the current phase of the project and will be available by Fall 2008.

  7. kjc
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    And on top of all those questions about “how much it’s going to cost,” I’d like to know how long till there’s a car big enough to put the whole planet inside so we can just drive it right off the proverbial cliff. I mean, after that, who’ll need trains?

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