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Posted at 12:36 PM ET, 02/16/2011

Florida rejects high-speed rail funds

By Jerry Hart, Bloomberg News

Florida Gov. Rick Scott joined three other Republican governors in rejecting Obama administration funds for rail projects, saying a planned high- speed line in his state could saddle taxpayers with $3 billion in added expenses.

The former health-care executive said at a news conference in Tallahassee that he informed U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of his decision Wednesday. The state was awarded almost $2.4 billion in federal money for an 84-mile passenger line between Tampa and Orlando.

"This project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits," Scott said in a statement. "Historical data shows capital cost overruns are pervasive in nine out of 10 high-speed rail projects."

Scott joins John Kasich of Ohio and Wisconsin's Scott Walker in rejecting U.S. funds from President Obama's program to develop a national high-speed rail system. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie, also a Republican, last year refused $3 billion of U.S. government money for a commuter-rail tunnel under the Hudson River, saying the state couldn't afford $5 billion in potential extra costs.

LaHood said in a statement that he was "extremely disappointed" in Scott's move.

"We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses."

He also cited "overwhelming demand for high-speed rail in other states that are enthusiastic to receive Florida's funding."

Scott, 58, proposed a fiscal 2012 budget last week that cuts spending by $4.6 billion. He said in a letter to LaHood that he would rather spend the money intended for rail on highways and on dredging ports to accommodate larger cargo vessels.

Angela Greiling Keane contributed to this report.

Related stories:

Obama administration seeks to invest more in high-speed rail

Amtrak proposes $13.5-billion project

DOT redirects high-speed rail funds

By Jerry Hart, Bloomberg News  | February 16, 2011; 12:36 PM ET
Categories:  Passenger Rail  
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Good. High speed rail just wouldn't be cost effective in FL. We need to focus our funds for transit in places that will be cost effective.

Posted by: slar | February 16, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

High-speed rail over an 84-mile segment doesn't seem to make a lot of sense because it's not a distance that takes a long time to travel as it is. Assuming normal traffic speeds in Florida and no serious traffic or accidents, you can usually make an 84-mile drive in about an hour. (Further south, especially on I-75 across the Everglades, 84 miles would generally take less than an hour.) The benefit of high-speed rail is over longer distances. The DC-to-New York run is a prime situation where true high-speed rail (as opposed to the Acela--while the Acela is nice, it's not really "high-speed") would pose a real benefit. Taking the Acela to New York already takes about the same amount of time as flying once you factor in travel to the airport, waiting on line to go through security, waiting again to board the plane, taxiing, waiting to take off, inevitable delays at LaGuardia, and then the hassle of getting into the city from LaGuardia. A 200-mph high-speed train could well prove faster than flying. The same is not necessarily true for, say, Tampa to Orlando--there is no reason to fly on that route because it would take longer than driving, but the time savings associated with high-speed rail would likely be insignificant because of the difficulty of getting up to speed and then back down to a stop in such a short distance.

Texas strikes me as a state that could be well-suited to high-speed rail service, at least between the four most important metro areas (Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio). I think a lot of people don't realize just how big Texas really is.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 16, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, the money will be much better spent on high-speed rail in the NE Corridor, California, and Texas. Not the least because south Florida will be under water within a century, so long-term investment there would be wasted.

Posted by: raschumacher | February 16, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Other states can use high speed rail. If Florida's leaders decline the money, send the high speed trains to a state that will appreciate the boost in travel, trade, and success. Sarah Palin can use the high speed trains to replace her bridge to nowhere, the bridge in Alaska would connect the town of Ketchikan. The Gravina Island bridge project is an embarrassment to the people of Alaska. The bridge was projected to cost $398 million. Give the money to presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin. See where Palin invests.

Thomas Chi

Posted by: ThomasChi | February 16, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

If the Florida taxpayers are willing to see the funds, that they will be forced to pay for, used in other states, than great! More for us! We could use some high speed rail between DC and Richmond...a trip that can easily take 3+ hours when I-95 is congested.

Posted by: thetan | February 16, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"Sarah Palin can use the high speed trains to replace her bridge to nowhere, the bridge in Alaska would connect the town of Ketchikan. The Gravina Island bridge project is an embarrassment to the people of Alaska"

ThomasChi, what a charming lying Red piece of Red dis-information you and your Gimmecrat party have engage in. That Bridge was pushed by Democratic Sen. Coburn and built long before Sarah Palin ever became Gov. of Alaska.

So I guess that makes you a bald face LIAR does it. Does that bother you? Nope, you have no ethics or are just a con-man LIAR.

Posted by: wjc1va | February 16, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Three cheers for Gov. Scott! He is quite correct -- high-speed rail lines are exorbitantly expensive and time-consuming to build, they require massive subsidies to operate, and they serve only a limited number of travelers.

Far better to use the funds on projects that are cost-effective and which serve a broader audience.

And why should the federal government try to strong-arm states into building high-cost money-losing projects? Most transportation systems should cover their own costs (through tolls and user fees), without massive government subsidies.

It's regrettable that the Obama Administration won't allow states to use these funds more effectively. The Republican House should step in to prevent the Administration from further waste of limited transportation resources.

Posted by: jrmil | February 16, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse


If you are referring to Sen. Tom Coburn, he is a Republican.

Posted by: ceebee2 | February 16, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I find it so amazing how often right-wing political "leaders" shoot down programs that would actually benefit people and tell us it is for the good of their state.

Let me see how hat adds up.

Turning down Affordable Health Care Act funds which would cut Medicaid costs is good for the state.

Turning down unemployment benefits which would feed, cloth and house destitute people without costing the state a dime is good for the state.

Turning down high-speed rail and all those jobs and tax revenues is good for the state.

Okay. I see how it could all be good for the state. The people who need a job or health care or rail service could move to another state.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We keep voting for these delusional right-wingers and put them in office hoping against all hopes that they can fix some of the problems - any one of the problems - they have caused this society since Nixon took office in '69.

Things keep getting worse and worse and these people keep shooting their own citizens, first in the foot and now working their way up the body-electorate. Maybe they will get it over with quickly. We can only hope.

Posted by: PoliticalPrisoner2012 | February 16, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Governor Scott said that although one study had projected that three million people would use the Tampa-to-Orlando line annually, he said only 3.2 million people rode Amtrak’s Acela trains in the Northeast Corridor in 2010, even though the population centers along the Acela route have as many as eight times the population of the area that would be served by the proposed Florida line.

Posted by: lure1 | February 16, 2011 7:46 PM | Report abuse

How dare they stand up against waste? Spending = stimulus whether it is needed or not.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 17, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Please give it to the NE Corridor, where it's needed the most!

Posted by: destewar | February 17, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Let's see

- It created jobs
- It would be used by people EVERY DAY
- It was helping the state financially

So, Republicans reject it?


Posted by: Bious | February 17, 2011 11:24 PM | Report abuse

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