Alaskan Rep. Ted Stevens gained some unwanted noteriety (and plenty of ridicule) for putting a $223 million earmark into the 2005 Transportation Equity Bill that would fund a bridge to an island that 50 Alaskans called home.
Now Mississippi's senators have upped the ante in a big way by "adding $700 million for the 'railroad to nowhere' to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2006 (H.R. 4929)."
The railroad controversy arose after Hurricane Katrina destroyed a portion of the CSX rail line in Mississippi. CSX spent $300 million to fix the line and a company spokesperson said, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.” The $700 million would be spent to divert the tracks a few miles to the north, making way for U.S. 90 to be rebuilt along the rail bed. Sens. Cochran and Lott say the switch is necessary for safety reasons and to protect the track from future hurricanes. However, The Washington Post reported that “much of the rail line along the Gulf Coast would remain in hurricane danger, and the proposed rerouting would affect only a small part.” The Post noted that “Mississippi’s rail-accident rate from 2001 to 2005 reached a 30-year low.”
The real reason behind this move appears to be economic. The stretch of land along the railroad is prime real estate for tourism development. As reported in the Post, the highway would be turned into a “beach boulevard” running through cities such as Biloxi. The Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal in Mississippi said the plan would encourage tourists to “spend more time strolling among the casinos and taking in the views.”