Wednesday, February 16, 2011

News Flash: Florida's Governor Scott Rejects High-Speed Rail

This is a decision we have been waiting for.  Now three states have looked high-speed rail square in the eye and decided against it, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida.  Florida was to be the other truly-truly high speed rail line, with truly-truly fast trains,  like California, not just hopped-up Amtrak.  It would have meant an entirely new rail corridor.  But, interestingly, it would have not actually connected the two terminal towns, Tampa and Orlando. Oh, well.  Never mind.

The costs to Florida would run into the billions. Scott understands, as did the Governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, that it's smart to look a gift horse, like the federal stimulus funds, in the mouth, so to speak. The federal high-speed rail agenda has been, "Here's a couple of bucks for free.  Now get to work and build something we can't afford to pay for." People in Florida know about yachts; expensive to purchase, but unaffordable to keep up the payments and operate. And, like yachts, HSR is a luxury.

Perhaps it's gratuitous to say so, but if it hadn't been for California's vote in 2008 to support Proposition 1A, none of us would be struggling to prevent this outrageous waste of funds in this state.  That support  for the $9.95 billion bond measure gave all the rail promoters across the country the incentive -- the raw red meat, so to speak -- to grasp for the largesse that this project promised. Doubtlessly, it encouraged the Obama Administration to promote this vision as a vehicle to bolster select states and congressional districts with federal funds to support Democrats struggling to remain in office.

All those in California who realized what the real costs would be kept their mouth shut. And many of us didn't have a clue.  But, now we are learning.  As we've been saying right along, high-speed rail is a money black-hole that will suck up financial resources we don't have and therefore must borrow, forever. 

We can only be hopeful, that as more and more information about what the real costs are, especially to the host states, if they opt to build a rail system that they don't need and can't afford, they will re-consider their earlier decision and work to stop the project.

Hello, California. I'm talking to you!

There is now a good likelihood that LaHood, using the freed up stimulus funds like Monopoly money, will earmark the available Florida funds for other states. There are those in California, if we receive some of these funds, who will find this another generous gift. But, smart people will realize that it's another free shot of heroin to intensify our addiction to this destructive high-speed drug.
Scott rejects high-speed rail project
By Cooper Levey-Baker | 02.16.11 | 9:54 am
Gov. Rick Scott just announced that he has rejected federal money that would be used to build a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando, saying the project would be “far too costly to taxpayers” and that he believes “the risk far outweighs the benefits.” More from his press release after the jump:

Moments ago I spoke with u.s. transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to inform him of my decision. I appreciate the secretary’s efforts to work with us and I look forward to working with him in the future. 

My decision to reject the project comes down to three main economic realities:
•First – capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion.
•Second – ridership and revenue projections are historically overly-optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur. (from $300 million – $575 million over 10 years) – Note: The state subsidizes Tri-Rail $34.6 million a year while passenger revenues covers only $10.4 million of the $64 million annual operating budget.
•Finally – if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.
The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits. #
Historical data shows capital cost overruns are pervasive in 9 out of 10 high speed rail projects and that 2/3 of those projects inflated ridership projections by an average of 65 percent of actual patronage.
It is projected that 3.07 million people will use the train annually. Keep in mind that Amtrak’s Acela train in Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore only had 3.2 million riders in 2010. And that market’s population is 8 times the size of the Tampa/Orlando market.
President Obama’s high-speed rail program is not the answer to Florida’s economic recovery.
We must make investments in areas where we will get a return for the shareholders – Florida’s taxpayers."

The project has been a hot topic of debate since work began along the I-4 corridor. A coalition of politicians and business lobby groups recently formed in an effort to press Scott to accept the funds. The head of the powerful Associated Industries of Florida called the rail line a part of “America’s infrastructure bonanza” at a roundtable discussion earlier this month. #

Scott’s decision means the federal government will likely give the money earmarked for the project to another state.