The red states of in the heart of Dixie (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia) have been designated a federal high speed rail line to be known as the Gulf Coast Corridor. In this Republican heartland, home to the most anti-high speed rail politicians in the country, this line must be seen as “If they can do it here, they can do it anywhere” corridor.
The political class representing these southern states is extremely resistant to high speed rail, but has not produced any sound reasons for it besides the generic argument about cost. Louisiana Governor and former Republican rising star Bobby Jindal was questioned on his thoughts about high speed rail a few months back. Asked for comment about his stance on the federal rail money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the governor’s Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell said he does not think the Las Vegas to Anaheim line is a good use of taxpayer money. He did not address the Louisiana proposal.
A strategy of ignore and/or misinform is the current modus operandi for southern Republicans like Jindal, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, Saxby Chambliss and the vast majority of the rest of the southern GOP. While researching for this blog series, I realized the Gulf Coast Corridor is by far the least mentioned in the press up until now. While politicians in other parts of the country are striving to push high speed rail into the public forum (special mentions should go to Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania) southern politicians are refusing to comment.
The political leadership of the South is missing a huge opportunity to make vast improvements in their states’ infrastructure by getting on board measure to improve passenger rail. Greater mobility would give these states a desperately needed economic shot in the arm. Mississippi and Louisiana are #1 and #2 respectively in the nation in poverty according to the 2007 US census. Alabama is sixth and Georgia is the best of the bunch, coming in at thirteenth.
High speed rail offers promise on this line for one of America’s truly great cities – New Orleans. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina is still felt in the Big Easy nearly four years after the storm hit. Reconstruction of the city on all levels is still a task that needs to be completed. Infrastructure programs that will strengthen the cities levees and defenses against flooding should be given top priority, but after that, transportation and housing need to be next on the agenda.
Rapid ground mobility is something that is lacking all over the nation. This should not be the case in the South as weather conditions are ideal year round. The flat surface of these states and warm climate are perfect for trains that should be traveling in excess of 200 mph. The advantage over the Northeast, which must deal with hazards like ice and snow plus a more challenging landscape, is clear. Rail proponents in these states must seize the initiative to get the debate rolling on their high speed rail corridor in order to realize the area’s full potential.
This is the 5th of a 13-part series on high speed rail in the USA. Read previous articles:
- High Speed Rail – 12 Corridors to be Stimulated
- High Speed Rail at 90 mph?! ARRA & the Northeast Corridor
- California High Speed Rail – Who will pay for $40 billion?!
- Planning High Speed Rail Line For 17 Years: The Pacific Northwest
[photo credit: monkeyc.net]