Scope of RailRunner Debacle Exposed

The Albuquerque Journal and Los Ranchos Mayor Larry Abraham deserve thanks for their combined efforts to (for the first time, really), explain the Rail Runner’s finances to the public and show just how big of a debacle the train really is. The recent article “Fiscal Train Wreck” certainly sums the situation up as do the Journal’s editorial and Larry Abraham’s op-ed which was not posted on the paper’s website.

Basically, the train was built like a house of cards, relying on massive debt with the day of reckoning pushed off as far as possible (the years 2025 and 2027 to be exact) when payments of $230 million are due in each of those years. That doesn’t even account for the fact that train sets and rails will need to be replaced after 30 years of operation at something close to original cost, so a mere decade after these two “balloon payments” are due, taxpayers will be on the hook for another $450 million or so.

Of course, that is just the infrastructure cost. In terms of operations, passengers pay — according to Abraham — only 13.5 percent of the annual operating budget for the train. So, eliminating weekend service may save money, but any savings from that (or fare increases) will be a drop in the ocean. Abraham states at the conclusion of his article that we are faced with an “opportunity” to “make the best of what looks like a very bad situation.” It is time for Gov. Martinez to pull the plug on this rolling disaster.

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6 Replies to “Scope of RailRunner Debacle Exposed”

  1. It was a wonderful article in Sunday’s Journal. I hope that hundreds cut it out and keep it for future reference.

    I was always a little vague as to how much the Roadrunner really cost. I’ve never heard any public official give a figure. So, last year, using the search feature of the Albuquerque Journal starting in 2003, I used the search word “Railrunner.” I then read every article that came up to see what statements had been made about the projected costs of the Railrunner by state officials. Not surprisingly, lowball figures were given. Here are the few articles that I could find for the early years before massive funding got underway:

    8/6/03 “Rail Takes Baby Step” The estimated cost to build a light rail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is 200 million dollars.

    2/8/04 “Gov Puts Commuter Train Service on Fast Track” Estimates that it will cost 50 to 75 million for the Belen to Bernalillo section, 250 million for the Bernalillo to Santa Fe section and yearly operating costs of 8 to 12 million for the Belen to Bernalillo section.

    7/16/04 “Vote Will Put Commuter Train on Fast Track” Estimate to build the Bernalillo to Santa Fe link is 200 million.

    1/24/06 “Train Will Lose Millions; Railrunner Fares May Cover 10% of Costs” Construction price is now estimated at 393 million.

    11/18/07 “Critics Say Rising Railrunner Tab Slows Work” Must read article citing fact that estimated construction costs for the Railrunner rose from 90.2 million in 2003 to 425 million in 2007. Several state legislators are quoted. One says that when there is a five fold increase from original estimate to current price, that’s deception. John Arthur Smith says that had the legislature known that the Railrunner was going to cost 475 million back in 2003, it would probably not have been funded.

    1/23/04 “Belen-Santa Fe Financing All Uphill” A must read editorial by former city counselor Alan Reed explaining why the Railrunner would probably not work in NM. The ignored Cassandra.

    From the debacle that the Railrunner is, we can draw many conclusions and lessons. I think the most salient are the following:

    1. Governor Richardson and his minions lied to people of NM about what the train was going to cost. Had he been forthcoming about the cost, the train would probably never have been built. He was obviously burnishing his resume for his run for the Oval Office. NM taxpayers will be paying the price for many years to come;

    2. the legislature did not do its due diligence regarding determining what the cost would be. Did anyone in Santa Fe ask the simple questions of what will it cost to build, what will it cost to finance, what it will cost to run, and how much would be paid for by riders’ fares? Apparently not. Why not?

    3. the media did not do its due diligence. Had anyone in the print or broadcast media made a pest of himself in 2003 or 2004 and asked the hard questions about what the Railrunner was really going to cost and asked for proof, the project probably could have been stopped. Unfortunately, the failure of the media to do its job is a reflection on its quality in NM.

  2. This is what happens when political contributions affect the lowley taxpater !. BNSF donated to Richardson ! Bambardier donated to Richardson ! HA Result Railroad line was bought ! Also Choo Choo train was bought ? Payback for contributions NM suckers are stuck with BILL ,Good ol Democrats . Looking for freebies Don’t forget to vote Dumbocrat next year! see if obuma gives you anything .. Hod your breath ..

  3. Solution to Burro runner ( AKA Railrunner !! Sell now while the price of scrap iron is high. China will buy all scrap metals ..

  4. The railrunner as missed the boat…. In downtown Albuquerque, we have 3 big hospitals that have 12-hour shifts. The hospitals have been great to provide transport to the Alvarado Station, but does not cater to some 2500+ employees who come from as far away as Santa Fe or Belen??? Valencia county doesn’t even have a hospital, so all nurses, docs, techs, etc that live in Valencia are each driving their cars back and forth. It is a shame. The 8-5p folks are covered, now how about those 7-730 people????

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