The Lincoln Project, a controversial federal program that helped build the country’s first streetcar, has been taken over by the National Automobile Dealers Association, which was founded by the car industry.
The NAAD is lobbying for the program’s continued existence.
Lincoln’s former CEO, Robert H. Nelson, resigned in April after more than a decade in charge.
“The time has come to take another look at our Lincoln program,” NAAD President Bob Pritchett said in a statement.
“Lincoln has been a significant part of our history and future and it’s time to move forward with our long-term vision of making the country safer, more efficient, and more prosperous.”
A key part of the Lincoln program was a $500 million program to build a rail system that would connect Chicago to Milwaukee, Indiana.
That project was canceled in 1973, but the project was revived by President Richard Nixon and his administration.
Lincoln got $50 million for the project in 1969, with another $100 million in cash and bonds.
In 1980, Nixon signed a $150 million bond to fund the project.
It wasn’t until a few years later, when the federal government had already spent nearly $1 trillion on the project, that the NAAD took over the program, citing the car lobby as a major impediment.
NAAD’s main focus is the project’s transportation infrastructure.
In 2014, NAAD was instrumental in pushing through a law that would have given Lincoln $1.5 billion for transportation projects.
The project was never completed, and the Lincoln Railroad Corporation, which Lincoln built, was bought out by a company that was run by another car lobby, the American Automobile Association.
The deal was a win for the car companies, who were hoping to secure more public funding for the railroad project.
The National Association of Manufacturers also joined in the push for the rail project.
“We are delighted to be able to assist the Lincoln Administration in making the project a reality,” NAIA President and CEO Mike Fleisher said in the statement.
The Lincoln rail project would have included building a line to Chicago’s Logan Airport and connecting Milwaukee with downtown Chicago.
The first stage of the project included a track and tracks to the north and south of the Chicago-Milwaukee International Airport, which would have made it easier for passengers to get to and from Chicago and Milwaukee.
But a lack of funding and a failure to complete the project led to the rail line being shelved, with a new rail line connecting the cities.
Lincoln was also planning a line that would take riders from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky.
A decade later, in the 1990s, the NAIA was involved in a major lobbying effort to keep the rail system alive.
NAIA, which has become the largest trade association in the United States, has worked to keep railroads and other large corporations on board with the rail program.
NAIAS board members, including Fleisher, are all former car industry lobbyists.
“I think NAIA is very pleased with the results of this effort,” NAIAS President and General Counsel Scott W. Jones said in his statement.
In April of this year, NAIAS was among a handful of companies that filed a lawsuit against the federal agencies that were supposed to pay for the Lincoln rail line, including the Transportation Department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Transit Administration, the Department of Transportation, and Amtrak.
That lawsuit was dismissed in November.
“NAIAS and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) join our fellow members of the National Labor Relations Board and the American public in filing this lawsuit to secure the right to unionize,” NAICS president and CEO Robert Pritchelts said in an email.
“To achieve that goal, we are asking that the railroad’s board of directors be required to take a look at its financials and the economic impact of the program to determine whether the rail is in the best interests of the people of the United State.”
The rail line was not included in the new settlement, which requires NAIAS to pay $1 billion for the canceled rail project and the rail infrastructure it would have helped build.