Right-wing Governor Kills Florida HSR Project – Again
In case you needed any further evidence that right-wing opposition to high speed rail is purely ideological and not practical, there’s Florida governor Rick Scott, who announced this morning he is killing the state’s HSR project:
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.
As you can see, it’s just a bunch of the usual anti-rail talking points put together to justify his ideological stance against rail. Nowhere is it acknowledged that private companies had promised to pay the cost overruns. Nowhere is it acknowledged that HSR systems around the world attract high ridership. Nowhere is the risk of high gas prices considered. Instead Gov. Scott basically says “nobody rides trains in America, so I’m going to protect my oil company buddies and kill this fully-funded project.
Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic offers his take:
The Governor apparently has no trust in the private companies he claims to laud, failing to give them a chance to demonstrate their interest in the project. He apparently has no interest in offering his citizens the opportunity to pioneer a mode of transportation that has been repeatedly scuttled, in Florida and elsewhere, by the distinctively American ability to ignore the potential benefits of intercity rail.
This reckless decision will cost Floridians dearly – when they do get around to building an HSR system down the road, it will cost much more than it would have now. Of course, this is the second time in 10 years that a right-wing governor has killed a Florida HSR project, as Jeb Bush did the same in the early 2000s.
So what does this mean for California? More money, obviously, probably enough to get to Bakersfield. It won’t be easy, though, as Congressional Republicans will try to block any redirection of Florida’s HSR money to other states. This will may also reinforce Rep. John Mica’s view that all HSR money should go to the Northeast Corridor, which is a very bad idea. Just because some foolish governors in a few states prefer to appease their ideological followers and their oil company donors shouldn’t mean California, which is not afraid of the 21st century, should suffer as a result.