In a move that shocked and outraged officials and citizens, Florida Governor Rick Scott said he will reject the $2.4 billion in federal funds allotted for a high speed rail route from Tampa to Orlando, thus killing the entire project. The route would have been the first completed of Obama’s $53 billion high speed rail plan. Scott is the fourth Republican governor to reject federal funds for rail projects.
Florida was not required to spend anything on the project, but Scott felt that it still would have been too costly to taxpayers because of potential capital cost overruns. He said that data shows overrun costs occurring in nine out of ten high speed rail projects. High-speed rail experts from 11 different countries were planning to bid on building the rail, and the winning company — not the state of Florida — would have been required to cover the cost overruns for the next 20 years, according to a rail expert. But Scott pulled the plug before the companies could even submit proposals.
The route would have run 84 miles from downtown Tampa to the Orlando International Airport, with a stop in Lakeland. The project was the nation’s most “shovel-ready” route, and it would have created nearly 100,000 jobs for Florida residents.
Scott’s decision solicited strong opinions from local officials and the media. A Florida city commissioner said the decision shows a lack of vision for the state’s needs. A writer for The Ledger said he serves an ideology, not the people of Florida. TIME Magazine equated the rejection to “slaughtering a gift horse and sending its disemboweled corpse back to Washington.”
In a letter to the Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, Scott wrote, “Put simply, the proposed high-speed rail line is far too uncertain and offers far too little long-term benefit for me to consider moving forward.” In prepared remarks, he added, “The answer is to reduce government spending, cut government’s leash on our state’s job creators and then hold government accountable for the investments it makes.”
In the same letter to LaHood, Scott outlined a list of infrastructure projects where he would like the money to go instead — but that’s not how the funds work. Along with the funds rejected by Ohio and Wisconsin, the money will be redistributed to other high speed rail projects throughout the country.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Florida is already filled with highways, and Scott’s decision is only pushing the state toward more gas-guzzling. High speed rail would have taken thousands of cars off the road and reduced dependence on polluting foreign oil. If governors continue to reject funds for high-speed rail, the future of America’s transportation could be dismal.
Via The Ledger