Broke Turnpike Commission Wasting $2 Million on Elon Musk Scheme?

natural gas boats - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

 

This is insane! The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is spending $2 million it doesn’t have to study an Elon Musk hyperloop scheme NIMBYs are going to hate.

One of my friends who enjoys tweaking his closest associates sent me a news story yesterday for comment. He knew it would set off another friend on the distribution list. It infuriated me as well. It was this story, which starts out “Elon Musk’s futuristic vision for hyperloop transit could be in the works for a Pennsylvania route between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.” It was a red-blinking, bell-clanging warning that yet another Elon Musk corporatist rip-off was in the works—in my home state, no less! And, sure enough…

turnpike commission

We have covered Elon Musk extensively here at NaturalGasNOW. Search his name above and you’ll find our posts explaining this man’s incredible hawking ability. He talked Andrew Cuomo out of $750 million for the failed SolarCity project. He’s raided the treasuries of one government after another to do Tesla, solar projects, space rockets and giant batteries. None of this has made any sense economically for anyone but himself and his family. Yet, he’s the hip huckster and this all that seems to matter in an age when more than ever, style swamps substance.

Here’s the essence of the story (emphasis added):

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has awarded a $2 million contract for a feasibility study on a cross-state hyperloop tunnel, with additional stops in Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Hyperloop technology, led by Musk’s Boring Company, relies on magnetic levitation to propel pods through low-pressure tubes at speeds up to 700 mph. That’s about 10-15 times faster than traditional rail and 2-3 times faster than high-speed rail or magnetic levitation trains, which are also under consideration in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

A hyperloop tunnel would theoretically cut the 320-mile trip between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to under a half-hour…

Aecom Technical Services Inc., which built Elon Musk’s hyperloop test track in 2016 … will provide preliminary planning, engineering and support services. 

In 2017, Musk claimed he had received verbal government approval for a hyperloop between New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Those cities disputed Musk’s bold assertion and no government authority ever came forward to back up the entrepreneur’s declaration

Testing for current hyperloop tracks and projects has been ongoing for the past two years. Musk’s plan to debut his subterranean test tunnel in Hawthorne, California, fell through last fall when community groups sued Los Angeles for exempting the project from an environmental review process.

The feasibility of a Pennsylvania hyperloop will depend on a range of factors including geography, demand and the estimated costs for tunnel construction, still an unknown variable for large-scale projects.

Does it get any crazier? Can you imagine the outcry from NIMBYs? It’s no accident promoters tried to exempt it from environmental review in California. They knew the NIMBY opposition that would arise and it came even faster than they supposed. And, on top of this, the costs are completely unknown. Moreover, if anyone thinks there’s enough demand to justify a stop in Scranton, they’re dreaming. But, then you have to be dreaming if you think Scranton is on the route between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

turnpike commission

The feasibility study contract is going to AECOM, a company apparently already lapping up corporatist government contracts. It has at least one other big existing contract with the Turnpike Commission and it seems to be doing these hyperloop studies wherever government will open up taxpayer and ratepayer wallets for raiding. Here’s an excerpt from another story at Verge that paints a clearer picture:

If it works, the Hyperloop could vastly simplify intercity travel and freight, reduce congestion and pollution, and potentially revolutionize transportation worldwide.

It could also be a total boondoggle. The Hyperloop has a number of hurdles to overcome before it can even carry its first passenger, such as how to obtain the land rights and right-of-way necessary to achieve its promised speeds. But that hasn’t stopped companies like Hyperloop One from trying to sell its fantastical concept to investors, the press, and the world at large...

Hyperloop One is also partnering with Aecom, one of the world’s largest construction and design firms, to help build a two-mile track in North Las Vegas. Aecom is also assisting Musk’s SpaceX in the design of its Hyperloop track in Hawthorne, California. Previously, the LA-based construction firm was in talks with Hyperloop One’s rival startup, Hyperloop Transportation, but those talks appear to have fallen apart.

So, we learn the $2 million Turnpike Commission contract is going to one of the partners invested in selling the idea! How convenient! How very Musky! Talk about corporatism! Curiously, nether the meeting agenda nor the minutes of the meeting where the contract was awarded indicate the amount, as is typical with other contracts. Why? Because the Pennsylvania legislature ordered them to do it, apparently!

But, it’s even worse. The Turnpike Commission is broke, as this excerpt from an article a mere 16 days later from TribLive.com indicates:

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is headed down the “road to ruin,” state officials warn.

Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton stood stony-faced Thursday next to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, said the cross-state toll road is “on the path to bankruptcy” absent legislative action.

It’s not corruption or mismanagement, but rather Act 44 of 2007 that requires the commission to pay PennDOT $450 million a year for mass transit that has left the nation’s first superhighway deeply in debt despite annual toll increases. Those hikes have driven the toll for a car ride across the turnpike to $56.50 and resulted in a decline in turnpike traffic as drivers sought out less-costly alternatives, DePasquale said at the Harrisburg press conference where he released his third audit of the roadway.

Read that again. The Turnpike Commission is broke because the legislature has been stealing money from it to the tune of $450 million per year to fund boondoggle mass transit projects that lose huge amounts of money but are politically correct. In the midst of the crisis caused by this outrageous conduct, the same legislature orders the Turnpike Commission to fund yet another boondoggle mass transit project!

This is insanity of the worst sort, peddled by hucksters hoping to get rich off Musky corporatist schemes. It is also, as another friend notes, “yet another example of two undeclared yet very real wars on the automobile and the personal freedom that accompanies automotive ownership.” He all too correct. Pennsylvania already has the tools to reduce the environmental impacts of transportation in the form of CNG and LNG transportation and it requires no subsidies.

We have a truly awful ruling class. It’s pitchforks, tar and feathers time.

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