Call it a variant on retail therapy: Detroit’s preferred method for dealing with fiscal crisis appears to be to double down on boondoggles. First, it pushed forward with a $450 million taxpayer-funded stadium. Now, Michigan Live reports that the city is still going through with a $140 million light rail project—that only covers 3.3 miles:
The federal government signed off on the $140 million M1 Rail project in April. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in January announced $25 million in federal funding for the transit project, which will have 11 stops and cost $1.50 per ride. Fifteen private donors led by Penske Chairman Roger Penske, Quicken Chairman Dan Gilbert and M-1 CEO Matt Cullen contributed $100 million to the project.
Even if you accept that this kind of investment—substantially underwritten by private investors, it should be noted—will make a difference to Detroit’s recovery in the long term by encouraging business development, it’s still terrible optics to break ground on a project like this right after the bankruptcy bomb has gone off. Private investors can do as they please with their money, but is pouring taxpayer dollars into infrastructure projects really the best thing to do as, say, pensioners’ futures hang in the balance? Maybe taking a step back is in order.