Ami Cholia

High-Speed Rail Goes To Florida’s Supreme Court

by , 03/03/11

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The high-speed rail is now making its way high up into the courts. The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments later today in a lawsuit filed against Governor Rick Scott, for refusing to take $2.4 billion in federal money for the proposed Tampa-Orlando high speed rail line. On March 1, two Senators — Republican Thad Altman and Democrat Arthenia Joyner — filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court against Scott for returning high-speed rail money back to the feds. The senators are arguing that the Governor is obligated to accept the money, because the Florida State Legislature voted in December 2009 to authorize the project. Scott, on his end, is claiming that he rejected the money because he was convinced there would be cost overruns and low ridership.

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Joyner said, “It’s necessary at this time, I think, because our governor is new, to let him know that this is not a monarchy, he is not a king, this is a democracy and that there are three co-equal independent branches of government and it is necessary for them to be respected.”

Scott responded in a terse statement saying, “My position remains unchanged, I’ve yet to see any evidence that Florida taxpayers would not be on the hook. Senators Altman and Joyner’s disrespect for taxpayers is clear by their lawsuit trying to force the state to spend this money.”

Now justices in the state are holding an expedited hearing today, a day before the deadline for accepting the stimulus money. If Florida refuses to take the money by Friday, it will go to other states.

The mayors of Orlando, Tampa and Lakeland also jointly sent a letter to Scott hoping to change his mind. The letter concludes, “We may never have the opportunity again in Florida to build a project of this scale, impact, and significance with 90% federal funding. We have had every reasonable indication that the balance of construction costs and operating costs will be funded by the private sector. This provides a remarkable combination of resources for a project promising so many benefits to our region and our State. It is our sincere belief that this letter fully addresses all of your concerns and that there is no reasonable risk to the State of Florida or any other impediment to moving forward with this worthwhile project.”

Scott is the third in the line of newly elected Republican governors who have returned federal dollars for high-speed rail citing cost overruns. Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin canceled rail projects in their states in the past few months.

Stay tuned for more developments.

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9 Comments

  1. joaquim October 16, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    This I can comment – high-speed rail.
    I think there should be made a real futuristic technological investment in high-speed rail in Europe. Rail should be competitive enough to cope with the plane business – people and goods transportation. Also it is environmentally-friendly. I have used the rail for years in Europe. It is really wonderful to travel by rail. This is a rewarding investment for the future, help technology evolve and provide jobs for hundreds of human resources.

  2. Bryson June 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Wow! Great thikinng! JK

  3. Githa May 31, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    AKAIK you’ve got the aneswr in one!

  4. Bubber May 31, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    AKAIK you’ve got the asenwr in one!

  5. caeman March 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Cars are superior in every way to train. They can make use of the vast road system to reach any point. And they are privately funded. The American tax payers didn’t buy my car, and shouldn’t be expected to do so.

  6. alxrz March 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

    cars and airplanes never outperformed the rail system, they were just more appealing to the unitedstaters, so they went on and bought a 4 passenger car for everyone, while that same money could have gone to the rail system expanding it instead of the so acclaimed highways.

    your mistake, you solve it, you pay for it

  7. clarketom March 5, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Let’s be clear, the MTA, NY’s transportation authority is not cost efficient in anyway. Cost efficient would mean self supporting in my book. But like every passenger rail system, NY relies on taxpayer funding to stay afloat. So if the largest, busiest passenger rail system cant support itself why would anybody believe a high speed rail will work?
    The govenor needs to just show what florida taxpayers pay to subsidize their current rail sytems.

  8. caeman March 4, 2011 at 11:49 am

    All y’all high-speed rail fans can have your railroad…but only one condition: it is paid for purely from private corporate investment and user fees. Keep my tax money away from it.

  9. lazyreader March 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

    For what? When people ask why the railroad business failed so many years ago, technically they didn’t….Mostly they simply prioritized freight as opposed to people. Some others did fail, they failed because they thought they were in the railroad business; they were not, they were in the transportation business (Just like Microsoft is in the software business. If they don’t offer an evolving and lucrative service every few years, we’ll stop buying it and hardware makers will simply look elsewhere) And when planes and cars outperformed trains in speed and convenience respectively, they just sunk. Whatever rail scheme they have. The states are going to pay for it, then have to subsidize as much as half the operating costs to begin with, for years, and when the damn thing is worn out, the few people who still use it are gonna form a lobby and petition to keep it going and have it rebuilt entirely if they deem necessary.

    But what about New York or Chicago? Certainly the rail is cost effective there? Well, the New York City subway is the most cost efficient rail system in the country. Something to be proud of. Still……it’s very costly. Their agencies are always on the verge of some fiscal turmoil or some scandals involving cost overruns. Their behind on their maintenance. They have ignored maintenance issues in favor of expanding and building additional lines under the belief they’ll draw in more riders and more riders means more fares, which should pay for it in the future. A NYC agency employee turned whistle-blower (and fired for having been found leaking information) has said ”We will never have enough money to keep the system maintained”, ”Doesn’t matter how much you give us it’ll never be enough”. Because every time you give them more money, they just go out and build more instead of maintain what they already have.

    They didn’t build the Interstate Highway System in one stroke. It took many years to finish the project, because the system was paid for out of user fees (gas taxes, tolls, etc). No heavy burrowing was utilized by the government. If no one used them nothing got built. Operating on a feed back system, the more they drove on it the more money they got, which is why it took longer than expected to finish the Interstate system. For this High-speed rail scheme, they want to spend billions and billions of dollars before the first passenger embarks. And if upon completion, it under performs they’ll still call it a success case.

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