Today the Washington Post picked up the “Reoriented Express” story that Bill Allison has been covering down the hall at Under the Influence.
Mississippi’s Senators Trent Lott (R) and Thad Cochran (R) inserted an earmarked provision to relocate a Gulf Coast railroad that had recently been destroyed and then rebuilt further north to make way for a highway. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who doesn’t mind knocking heads with members of his own party, is in his typical state of outrage at government waste, “It is ludicrous for the Senate to spend $700 million to destroy and relocate a rail line that is in perfect working order, particularly when it recently underwent a $250 million repair … American taxpayers are generous and are happy to restore damaged property, but it is wrong for senators to turn this tragedy into a giveaway for economic developers.”
As always you can find out why the railroad is being relocated if you just follow the money. As the Post notes:
For more than half a dozen years, Mississippi officials, development planners and tourism authorities have dreamed of the complex restructuring of Mississippi’s coastal transportation system that Lott and Cochran now want to set in motion. Under the plan, the CSX line — which runs a few blocks off the coast line — would be scrapped. CSX would move its freight traffic to existing tracks to the north owned by rival Norfolk Southern.
Then U.S. 90, a wide federal highway that hugs Mississippi’s beaches, would be rebuilt along the CSX rail bed. The route of the federal thoroughfare would be turned into a smaller, manicured “beach boulevard” through cities such as Biloxi, where visitors could “spend more time strolling among the casinos and taking in the views,” as the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal put it.
Allison has even more details from the Tri-State Economic and Transportation Benefits Study produced just before Hurricane Katrina devastated the coast line:
But the Tri-State Economic and Transportation Benefits Study calls for a project that’s bigger than just moving CSX’s seaside tracks north; it would create an additional north-south rail corridor, parallel CSX tracks that wouldn’t be replaced, replace some line currently operated by the Canadian Northern Illinois Central railroad, and generally be much more ambitious in scale than the original effort to move some CSX tracks further north.
The Study goes onto to detail the other beneficiaries of the railroad relocation/highway construction. Go to Under the Influence to check it out.