Posted 27 May 2012 - 12:43 PM
$1,000,000,000 (One billion dollars) have been spent on rehabbing a 16 mile stretch of I-40 that runs through the City of Albuquerque in the past 10 years. This is not a brand new highway, it is not a new alternative. It is an existing highway. A highway that bypasses the local businesses/Downtown, etc. It allow cross country travelers to zip through our fair city much faster. To date, not one cent of the cost of rehabbing, maintaining, patrolling, etc., of this 16 miles has been recouped by the City, State, or Federal Gov't. Essentially a 0% return on the "fare box". 100% subsidized - it will NEVER pay for itself. When it was originally built in the late 1950's, it divided neighborhoods and siphoned commerce from the commercial areas of the city, most still have not recovered fully 50+ years later.
By contrast, the entire 100 mile corridor of the NM Rail Runner Express regional passenger train cost a paltry $400,000,000 (Four hundred million dollars). It was a completely new and alternative route between 2 of New Mexico's most important cities: the State Capital in Santa Fe, and the largest city, Albuquerque, which has the state's only International Airport. Prior to the Rail Runner, there was essentially only one road connecting the two cities - I-25. I-25 has increasingly more traffic, and more accidents, and more closures due to both accidents and weather. Literally one road. With no frontage road. If an accident closed I-25, you were stuck.
Despite the Great Recession, many small and local businesses have weathered the recession in and around the Rail Runner route which doesn't bypass the commercial centers of the communities it passes through. This benefits the state economically, as local businesses pay higher taxes and reinvest locally, whereas the national chains on the interstate exits pay less taxes (in some cases no taxes), and send profits back to corporate headquarters out of state.
The economic rewards (increased investments/increase tax collection/tourism) that the NM Rail Runner Express brings to local and state coffers is sadly, never added to the balance sheet. Neither are the social benefits factored in. Many people don't have cars or choose not to drive or cannot drive due to visual, or physical conditions, or age -too young or too old. It also give both businesses and employees a greater area with which to connect. People who may not be able to afford to live in Santa Fe can now affordably commute from more reasonably priced housing in Albuquerque or Rio Rancho or Los Lunas, etc.
As for the fare box revenue, the cost of a round trip ticket between ABQ and SFe only just was increased to $9 on May 21, 2012 - still ridiculously low. But given that the 'user fee' for the same route on I-25 is STILL $0, I guess the train fare is maybe too high!! I look forward to the day when I-25 becomes a more self-sustaining operation that is less draining on the taxpayers" and or is sold " to a private operator.'" I think a $9 round trip toll on I-25 (and I-40 for that matter) is totally reasonable!