Tuesday, February 23, 2010

RailRunner Costs Eating NM Alive

The recent infusions of cash to keep the RailRunner running continue a history of project costs and operating losses exceeding expectations. The RailRunner’s red ink means money is being denied other surface transportation needs. While the RailRunner continues to get money to cover its shortfall, major transportation needs are going unmet. The intial cost projections for the RailRunner were so far off target the question arises whether the Legislature and the public were intentionally misled. The RailRunner was supposed to cost the state of New Mexico only $122 million. That’s what legislators and staffers claim they were led to believe, according to a December 9, 2005 report by the Albuquerque Journal. But by December 2005, the New Mexico Department of Transportation put the cost of the RailRunner to the state at $318 million. The cost of the RailRunner to the state of New Mexico has now grown to over $475 million. That’s the sum cited by the Legislative Finance Committee in its January 2009 report to the Legislature. Of the $600 million in highway projects assigned to the I-25 corridor, the RailRunner’s costs consumed more than 79% of designated funds. The RailRunner’s cost has weighed heavily on the state’s ability to fund future highway construction and maintenance. Adding the costs of the RailRunner to the state’s debt service has further reduced the funds available for needed highway projects. As the LFC summarized the situation in 2009, “As federal appropriations continue to shrink, this may result in increased state funding for debt payments, leaving less funding available to meet the state’s highway construction and reconstruction needs.”...read more

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