Rep. Don Young's High-Speed Hypocrisy

June 28, 2010 4:42 pm ET — Alan Pyke

With friends like Rep. Don Young (R-AK), high-speed rail projects don't need enemies.

In today's POLITICO, the Alaska Republican makes a strong and comprehensive case for investing in high-speed rail infrastructure. From a policy perspective, high-speed rail is a no-brainer. As Young points out, Americans average "an hour and a half each day driving" thereby "contributing to the waste of nearly 2.3 billion gallons of fuel per year from all cars idling in traffic."

Fuel economy - and the attendant "hidden" costs in pollution and lost productivity - should be just the beginning when making a proper case for high-speed rail investment. Rep. Young dutifully points out the other economic boosts, like job creation and reduced freight costs, which a modern rail system offers.

For all of these reasons, President Obama and Congressional Democrats pushed to include billions of dollars for high-speed rail in the Recovery Act. To secure $8 billion in funding, Democrats had to weather baseless Republican accusations that the money was for a "levitating train to Disneyland."

But Young isn't about to give Democrats any credit. According to the Alaskan, stimulus funds for rail projects are being wasted on "the operation and maintenance of the existing system." (Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood begs to differ.) After spending 500 words praising spending that Republicans mocked when it mattered, Young has the gall to attack the President for "pushing billions of dollars in stimulus bills that fund Big Government" while "missing a golden opportunity to stimulate the economy" by investing in high-speed rail projects. (In fact, it was the White House that "pushed for the added money" for high-speed rail last February.)

In the end, Young's editorial illustrates the Republican determination to have it both ways on the stimulus. This hypocrisy undermines Young's laudable advocacy for high-speed trains, and it shows the GOP is more concerned about returning to power than responsible policy.

[Click to enlarge high-speed rail project summary]