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Good News Dallas
by Special to    Mon, Oct 31, 2005, 09:13 AM

Peter LeCody is President of Texas Rail Advocates

To understand Proposition 1, you have to understand how transportation systems have been developed in this country and who really pays for it. We have a magnificent air transportation infrastructure, a dynamic national web of interstate highways and a robust waterway system. All three have helped move the U.S. and Texas along as an economic powerhouse. In one form or
another, these three transportation systems were built by the taxpayers of this country, plain and simple.

Here's the dirty little secret. All three also have another common thread: user fees do not cover the entire cost of building, maintaining and expanding the infrastructure. Government obligations are issued - you pay for it through taxes in one form or another. Truckers do not cover the entire cost of using highways just as airlines don't pay for many of the expanses of running an airport. And those barges filled with commodities floating down major waterways don't pay the full hare of operations either. You do.

Our railroad system in Texas has already experienced gridlock and in the next decade it will become dangerously critical if we don't start to act soon and make improvements. Railroads in Texas carry many commodities that are important to you. The coal that generates the electricity for your power plant, the farm products on your table, the chemicals that are part of hundreds of products you use daily, the lumber that builds your home and numerous other commodities that are transported by rail. 4 million railcars were handled in Texas in 1991. According to TxDOT statistics, that rose to over 8 million railcars in 2003. Texas is basically a one-track rail system
with occasional passing sidings. The system is in trouble. Railroad officials say there is no room on existing lines right now for future passenger rail service expansion.

Yes - Proposition 1 will cost each of us some of our tax dollars. Yes – the railroads are a profit-oriented business. Yes - we will cause them to prosper through Proposition 1. But what's in it for you? By moving hazardous cargo on a bypass around urban areas we maintain safety on the rails; we eliminate some dangerous highway rail crossings and keep our citizens safe; we take 200 or more truck trailers off our crowded highways on a single freight train with stronger rail infrastructure; we add additional tracks so that overburdened freight railways can be opened up for commuter and intercity passenger rail service. Fast, frequent and reliable passenger rail service means taking cars off the road and that's part of air quality improvement. There's the trade-off. You can pay for improvements to the public side of rail development now - or you can pay for it later when you're gridlocked on the highway that you've also paid for. It’s your choice.

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