Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Boise Choo-Choo Update

There's a lot of local train news lately.

Mayor Bieter seems the believe that light rail will go a long way to solving our local transportation / pollution issues.

There's a movement afoot to bring Amtrak back to Boise. (The Portland - Boise - Salt Lake City route was abandoned several years back, due to light ridership and the hugely-subsidized expense of operating passenger trains.)

More immediately, "Big Mike," a 1920-era steam locomotive, is being moved from its long-time residence in Julia Davis Park, to a new "Big Mike Plaza" at the Boise (railroad) Depot.

Your taxpayer dollars at work. (Around 322,500 of 'em, if you're counting.)

IMO, the Big Mike Move is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

But more significantly, it's a colossal waste of dollars that could, and should be used for improved bike and pedestrian facilities. Let me explain.

According to Boise City's website, "The Idaho Transportation Department awarded $309,000 in federal funds for the entire project, which includes moving the historic locomotive, preservation efforts, construction of the new plaza and interpretive signage. The funds are designated for non-roadway improvements."

Almost certainly, those funds were awarded as part of the Federal "Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act" (ISTEA), intended for stuff like better bike and pedestrian facilities, "Safe Routes to School," etc. My understanding is that the state receives the funds from the feds, and then cities apply to the state for the projects they designate.

Apparently our City Fathers felt that moving "Big Mike" was the best use of the funds - better than installing sidewalks where there are none, or fixing busted-up greenbelt, or improving routes to school.

They should install a little plaque in the Big Mike Plaza that says something like:

"Paid for by the sacrifice of pedestrian and bicycle facilities."

(Lest you think the entire project is being funded using federal bike/pedestrian funds, let me clarify that $14,000 came from private donations - mostly local railroading fans.)


Anonymous said...

It would of been nice to see those funds used elsewhere(bikes). Big Mike will just sit up there with the Train Depot unused by anybody.

Anonymous said...

The Idaho Foodbank can turn every dollar into 5 meals. I'll bet the families struggling to feed their children this winter will be very excited to watch 1.6 million meals be spent on moving a train.

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Bikeboy said...

Oh, great! Brazilian SPAM in Portuges!

I'll leave it up for a day or two so y'all can take advantage of the wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Then I'll delete it. (I don't think it's choo-choo talk.)

Anonymous said...

The good news is that message has the power to change my life. The bad news is it was only effective when someone around me is fluent in Portuguese. Less than ideal in Boise.

Look out Boise if I get the English version!