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Robert Trigaux

After 30 years of trying, Florida's still not ready for high speed rail



railroadtracksap.jpgWake up and good morning. Now that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has put a stake in the heart of high speed rail in the Sunshine State, all that's left is the death throes.... and a lot of pro-con commentary on which side was right in this transportation/budget, futurists-meet-beancounters theater. It's cathartic and illuminating to sample the wide range of coverage of the end of high speed rail -- the Little Engine That Couldn't. Here's an example:

* "Only people with the historical perspective of a fruit fly would oppose the first leg of high-speed rail in Florida (between Tampa and Orlando) that would eventually link to Miami. That explains why Gov. Rick Scott and tea-party crackpots are against it, but not why Kingsley Guy can't see the light." So says a Stephen Goldstein column in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in dueling columns with Guy.

* And Guy's rapier-like response? "Give credit to Florida Gov. Rick Scott for rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando. The state faces severe financial problems, and it hasn't the money to pay for its share of the building costs. It doesn't have the money to pay for the ongoing subsidies that would be required to keep the system in operation, either. Such subsidies would rob education and other worthy programs of funding." Ah yes, the classic "it will take food from the mouths of widows and orphans" argument raises its head again in Kingley Guy's Sun-Sentinel column here.

* "A once super-majority of Florida state senators opposed to Gov. Rick Scott’s rejection of federal high-speed rail funds has evaporated just as a regional effort began to salvage the project," writes the Gulf Coast Business Review, which goes on to document the flip-flopping legislators now scrambling to side with Scott and disassociate themselves from the loser (politically speaking) rail project. Among them are State Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, who showed support for the project a few days before and now regrets signing a letter critical of Scott's action. Ditto for Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington. And Sen. President pro-tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, signed the letter because he feels the governor should have worked with the Legislature first. Nonetheless, Bennett says, 'I don’t think we should put a dime into high-speed rail, especially a dime from Florida residents,' " says the Review, chronicling such masterful doublespeak.

* "It will be interesting, but not especially instructive, to follow this money and see what other part of the country spends it. There's nothing to be learned because history is repeating itself. Florida will help solve the mobility problems of cities in other states and be left with less money to solve its own problems," says a Tampa Tribune editorial

* "Scott killed the project (again) Thursday, declaring that Florida would not accept $2.4 billion in federal money for the Tampa-to-Orlando line no matter how well the state would be financially protected. Logic and bipartisan support are no match for a stubborn ideologue," states a St. Petersburg Times editorial.

* "We couldn’t afford this project in the best of times. Let it go," opines the Panhandle's Northwest Florida Daily News editorial.

* And from out of state, this observation: "Any rail project, in any state, will almost certainly cost more as it’s delayed, of course. Let’s see what economic realities Mr. Scott’s successors confront if — or when — they realize Florida can’t afford not to have high-speed rail service between Orlando and Tampa. So says the editorial of the Albany Times Union in New York as the state lobbies for its piece of Florida's $2.4 billion in high speed rail funding now up for grabs.

(Railroad track photo: AP)

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 7:00am]


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