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Pirate Smile Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-17-06 10:31 PM
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WP: Mississippi Senators' Rail Plan Challenged
Mississippi Senators' Rail Plan Challenged
War Bill Includes Millions to Move Just-Rebuilt Line

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 18, 2006; Page A01

Mississippi's two U.S. senators included $700 million in an emergency war spending bill to relocate a Gulf Coast rail line that has already been rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina at a cost of at least $250 million.

Republican Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran, who have the backing of their state's economic development agencies and tourism industry, say the CSX freight line must be moved to save it from the next hurricane and to protect Mississippi's growing coastal population from rail accidents. But critics of the measure call it a gift to coastal developers and the casino industry that would be paid for with money carved out of tight Katrina relief funds and piggybacked onto funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"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," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is planning to challenge the funding when the $106.5 billion war spending bill reaches the Senate floor. "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."

Securing money for pet home-state projects is nothing new for Lott, a famous benefactor of the Mississippi coastline, or for Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. But the fight over the rail funding will come at a sensitive time, when both houses of Congress have promised to rein in such "earmarks" as part of a larger effort to overhaul ethics rules, and when a stubborn budget deficit has made spending of all kinds a sensitive political issue.
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Terra Terra Donating Member (55 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-18-06 10:28 AM
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1. This is far from pork barrel spending
What the article fails to note is that the $250 million spent to repair the line was paid for by the railroad's insurance company, not the tax payers. Also, Hwy 90, the primary east-west corridor for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast, runs parallel to the beach and is adjacent to the sand. This highway was severely damaged by Katrina and was not passable for about 6 weeks after the hurricane. The railway is about 1/4 - 1/2 mile north of Hwy 90 and would make an ideal path for a new east-west corridor on the coast that is out of the way of a potential storm surge (Katrina's storm surge stopped about 200 feet south of the RR tracks). This is definitely not another "bridge to nowhere" project, but rather a vital upgrade to the MS Gulf Coast's infrastructure.
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