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.