Pam's Points: Light rail study, Campfield's poor judgment and today's election

Pam's Points: Light rail study, Campfield's poor judgment and today's election

May 6th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Light rail could be game-changer

Sometimes going back to the future makes much more sense than staying where we are.

Looking at ways to improve public mass transportation in Chattanooga makes sense. What remains to be seen is how we get to that improvement.

Chattanooga's city government is seeking a $400,000 federal grant to help prepare a $700,000 study of how we get there by using 21 miles of existing freight rail lines for a 23-mile passenger rail service to carry core city residents and workers to and from jobs and shopping areas and recreation and other city hubs of tomorrow.

Those other city hubs are the things that will develop when it's easy, cheap and opportune to get to them. That's a bit what happened when the Tennessee Aquarium was built and became a Chattanooga riverfront game-changer more than 20 years ago.

A light rail can be a boon to local businesses, spurring new shops and residential areas and opportunities around each stop as it also connects neighborhoods to jobs.

But it has a couple of very big "ifs."

Can it really be done for $35 million using existing rails and today's engines? In the scheme of road construction to keep up with today's car traffic, $35 million for 23 miles of rail transportation is cheap. Just two miles of Georgia State Route 151 known as Alabama Highway will be widened and improved next summer to the tune of $23 million.

The second big "if" is an environmental one. Even if we could pull the rail system off for $35 million, is it environmentally sound or are today's and yesterday's diesel train engines running a fairly constant lap around the city adding more bad air and carbon to our city and planet than the cars the rail system would replace? Those old engines and heavy rails are not, after all, really light rail. Light rail in today's lingo is usually electric trains that are cleaner but cost more.

These are questions that will be examined in the $700,000 study that the city will pay $300,000 toward. Given the opportunity that better transportation could bring here, that expenditure is well worth city and federal dollars.

Stacy Campfield fails history, spelling

One of Tennessee's state lawmakers is embarrassing us yet again. Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, on Monday compared the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to the Holocaust.

Writing on his blog, Campfield penned this moronic statement: "Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory [sic] sign ups for 'train rides' for Jews in the 40s."

The first official Nazi concentration camp opened in Dachau near Munich in 1933; Buchenwald opened in 1937. Perhaps Campfield thinks those camps and others like them were vacation resorts instead of the forced destinations for millions of Jews packed like cattle into rail cars.

About 6 million Jews were killed in those camps during the Holocaust.

The Affordable Care Act gives Americans access to health care.

The two things could not possibly be more opposite.

Endorsement reminder

In today's contested primary races in Hamilton County the Times editorial page endorses:


• Commission District 1: Randy Fairbanks (R)

• Commission District 4: Pam Ladd (D)

• Commission District 5: Isiah Hester (D)

• Commission District 7: Sabrena Turner (R) or Ezra Maize (D)

• Commission District 8: Tim Boyd (R)


• Jim Coppinger (R)


• Chris Harvey (R)


• Pam McNutt Fleenor (R)


• Catherine Cate White (R)


• Larry Henry (R)


• Gwen Tidwell (D)


• Pam Hurst (R)