Wednesday, May 18, 2011

High-speed rail would do it better

I wish to thank Tom Bowman and Martha Burke for inadvertently making the economic case for a high-speed rail link to Twin Falls in lieu of relocating the Hailey airport in their guest opinion published in the May 11 edition.

All the benefits that they list relate to jobs to construct, maintain and operate the airport facility, and they are based on the $325 million estimate for the project's creation. Let's ignore the fact that the operating and maintenance jobs are already in existence at the existing airport. I have estimated the cost of the high-speed rail project at $800 million. Their logic tells us that the construction-jobs benefit of the high-speed rail project is two to three times that of the airport project. So, thanks.

There are other benefits of the high-speed rail project that the airport project does not provide. These benefits relate to the degraded safety of driving to the more distant airport compared to a safer train ride in the same time to Twin Falls. They relate to getting those cars off the road and getting many commuters between Twin Falls and this valley off the road. They relate to connecting the commerce and residents of the Twin Falls area, Shoshone, Richfield and perhaps other towns to this valley. I put that value very conservatively at about $50 million per year. With inflation, that's $2 billion over 30 years. The airport relocation offers none of these benefits.

Any politician or commissioner who believes in serving the future of this valley's and region's economy and quality of life cannot ignore the possibility of the high-speed rail project's enormous benefits as calculated by Bowman's/Burke's calculations. Both projects require finding a large capital investment. The feds want to invest in rail. Talk to them. If you want help, call me.

Peter Catchpole


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