***UPDATE: The House press office issued a release Monday afternoon stating that Steinborn has since changed his mind...Read more after the jump.***
At 8:30 am Tuesday morning, the House Transportation and Public Works Committee will hear debate on two bills to extend Rail Runner service to the north and to the south.
First on the agenda: Rep. Robert Gonzales, D-Taos, will argue for HJM 22, which would order a feasibility study of whether the Rail Runner can/should reach Taos, the possible routes, the potential costs, the "optimum frequency." Bobby will be followed immediately by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Dona Ana, who will defend HJM 26, which would do the same but for Las Cruces.
Of course, the order of the agenda is subject to the chairman's discretion...but, then again, Bobby Gonzales is the chairman of that committee.
According to the fiscal impact reports, each study would cost $100,000 and would need to be shopped out to a private consultant. Those consultants would report back to the legislature in Nov. 2010.
Tell you what. The state's got a budget crisis, so here's my feasibility report for free:
1) Yes, of course it's feasible. If there's one thing that's feasible in the West, it's certainly trains. And doesn't green energy + public projects = the new American economy?
2) Yes, at least for the sake of appearances, it's a good idea not to make any decisions until after November 2010, when Richardson's no longer in charge of the New Mexico Department of Transportation. However, putting the deadline in November isn't going to keep the issue out of campaign politics. (BTW, what about Roswell and Farmington?)
3) Cost: $1.5 billion for extensions to both Taos and Las Cruces (assuming $5 million per mile of track and a healthy round-up to the nearest $500 million).
4) The Route:
View Larger Map
5) Frequency: Red-eye, morning, midday, evening and late night.
UPDATE: Since Reeper published this post, Steinborn has changed his mind and will instead defend a bill to create a new Rail Runner from Las Cruces to El Paso. From the House press office:
Santa Fe, NM – Rep. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces) originally introduced legislation that called upon the New Mexico Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study to extend the Rail Runner to Las Cruces. After considerable consultation with community leaders and regional transit officials, he has amended the bill to request a feasibility study to construct a leg of the Rail Runner from Las Cruces to El Paso that would eventually connect to Belen.
Rep. Steinborn said, “After much consideration, it made sense to focus our efforts on the commuter route from Las Cruces to El Paso for the next leg of the Rail Runner. With 10,000 commuters currently traveling the corridor daily, the Rail Runner would not only take considerable traffic off the highway, it would facilitate incredible economic development opportunities for our state and our university. With a combined population of over 2 million people, the El Paso Region provides a compelling cost benefit analysis to consider constructing a viable segment of the Rail Runner.”
The bill is House Joint Memorial 26 is scheduled to be heard in the House Transportation and Public Works Committee tomorrow morning.