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Opinion: Letters to the Editor

Letters for Feb. 3: Bob McDonnell's gas tax plan 'outrageous'; 'big issues'; Amtrak fires back

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Opinion,Letters to the Editor

Cars already consume too many resources

Re: "McDonnell plan to ax gas tax, hike sales tax advances," Jan. 31

This is an outrageous proposal.

Starting with the automobile bailouts, aid to disenfranchised auto workers and dealers, funding the mammoth Environmental Protection Agency for its ongoing task of curbing urban degradation and pollution, all those traffic control and safety institutions, road and highway construction, snow removal and the enormous number of state police patrols, the private automobile is already this nation's most privileged subsidy.

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Indeed, state and federal gasoline taxes pay just a fraction of these enormous costs and for the scant use of the roads by bicyclists and pedestrians who use them as walkways, particularly in Virginia.

If people with attitudes like Gov. Bob McDonnell's were ever required to pay for the true cost of automobile ownership, they wouldn't have enough left over to pay for health insurance.

-- Edward Abramic

Washington

Amtrak upgrades reduced travel times in NE Corridor

Re: "End the Amtrak experiment," Jan. 15

Daniel Hanson opposes further federal funding for Amtrak by arguing that $4.4 billion in federal funds has been provided over the past three years, presumably fiscal years 2010-12. That funding, along with ticket revenues, made possible Amtrak's purchasing of $4.2 billion in goods and services in the United States and paying $4.3 billion in wages to our employees, who are American residents and taxpayers.

These outlays created further economic activity in terms of goods and services purchased and taxes paid by our vendors and employees. That's before considering the increasing amount of safe, comfortable and environmentally friendly travel that Amtrak provided during that period.

Hanson also argued that despite grants made over time, train travel in the Northeast Corridor is not faster than 40 years ago. But not all federal funding over the past 40 years was spent in the Northeast. The Acela program, which was completed in 2000, made improvements all along the corridor, not just in New York and Washington.

Although it is true that in 1969 a single daily Metroliner made the nonstop trip from New York to D.C. in two hours and 30 minutes, that time began eroding year by year due to the deterioration of the track controlled by the privately owned and bankrupt Penn Central Corp. The work necessary to support Acela -- with times from New York to D.C. as short as two hours and 42 minutes today -- has resulted in reduced travel times for all Northeast Corridor trains all the way to Boston, including regional services not mentioned in the op-ed, and more trips per day than in 1969.

Joe McHugh

Vice president, Government affairs and corporate communications

Amtrak

Different eras create different priorities

Re: "Obama: The Transformer?" Jan. 30

When Noemie Emery uses history to explain presidents who focused on "big issues" like unemployment and war, she must realize that what are considered "critical issues" are ever changing in this country.

In the 19th century, American presidents focused on constructing a solid democracy, avoiding disunion and controlling a seemingly temperamental economy. President Grant struggled to end corruption and destroy a spoils system that plagued the political arena after the Civil War. Andrew Jackson dedicated a large amount of time and energy to the popular scandal known as "The Petticoat Affair" as he sought retribution for a mistreated senator's wife.

President Obama's transformative power should not be judged on such a relative scale. After all, the Jacksonian Era is often viewed as the beginning of modern America, which the "transformative" Jackson did not focus on during his presidency.

-- Arlisha Norwood

Hyattsville

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