The next time you're headed to Orlando and stuck in traffic on Interstate 4, think of California. That's where some of Florida's money for high-speed rail went. Or the next time you drive by the downtown Tampa block where the high-speed rail station would have been built, think of New York. Or Illinois. Or Minnesota. They are all getting a slice of the $2 billion in federal money earmarked for Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail until Gov. Rick Scott foolishly rejected the money.
In all, 15 states and the District of Columbia will be sharing the rail money that was Florida's. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the redistribution of our money on Monday and put the blame for the loss where it belongs — on Scott. It's no surprise that the cash was reallocated, but it still hurts to see the money go for high-speed rail projects from Chicago to St. Louis, Raleigh to Richmond and Minneapolis to Duluth — Duluth!! — instead of Tampa to Orlando. Scott's lack of vision will benefit travelers throughout the country and set Florida back decades.
We'll soon see whether Scott's decision was grounded in fiscal philosophy or his contempt for President Barack Obama. The governor said he rejected the high-speed rail money because he distrusted the revenue projections and feared the project would cost Florida taxpayers. Yet the SunRail commuter rail system planned for Orlando will cost Floridians far more, and Central Florida officials are lobbying Scott to let it be built. If the governor pulls the plug, he will anger powerful legislators and Central Florida officials. If he lets SunRail go forward, it will be clear his decision to kill high-speed rail had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with embarrassing the Obama administration — at Florida's expense.