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For a Cost of Only $16 per Californian . . .

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) writes that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision to defer a $647 million federal grant for Caltrain electrification was “foolhardy” and that the modernization plan “deserves a fair review based solely on the merits of the project” (Letters, March 15).

But Sen. Feinstein fails to question why federal taxpayers should be funding a San Francisco-to-Silicon Valley rail line that serves some of the wealthiest commuters in America.

According to Caltrain’s most recent customer demographic survey, the average Caltrain rider’s household income in 2013 was $117,000, with nearly two-thirds of rider households having incomes above $75,000. Eighty percent of riders had at least a college degree. Caltrain’s rider incomes and levels of educational attainment were more than double those of the average American’s, and this disparity almost certainly increased in the four years since the 2013 survey.

If, as Sen. Feinstein claims, the project is “desperately needed,” why is California so desperate to avoid funding it on its own? To do so, the one-time cost per California resident would be a mere $16. Sen. Feinstein and other California politicians’ refusal to take responsibility for local infrastructure that serves some of America’s wealthiest residents suggests it shouldn’t be a federal priority.

Marc Scribner

Senior Fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Washington

Originally posted to The Wall Street Journal