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Saturday's letters: Readers debate governor's high-speed rail decision

When rail project gets built, it will be much more costly

The truth is that this high-speed rail will happen — four years or eight years from now. But by then the costs will have tripled or more. At that time, let's remember Gov. Rick Scott and the tea party.

The work in construction would have been especially important to young, untrained job seekers. Even though most of the jobs would not have been permanent, residual careers and creative entrepreneurship are always an offshoot of these large projects.

What kind of experienced businessman is so closed-minded, so unwilling to search out alternate solutions?

Roy G. Valdes, Tampa

Most wouldn't use it

Our governor made the correct, decisive, responsible decision. I have read numerous articles about rail efforts in other states and cities, and the best ridership revenue to total cost ratio is in the 40 percent range. I challenge each Floridian to honestly assess if he or she would utilize a Tampa-to-Orlando bullet train. My parents live there, and I would not. I do not desire to supplement a nonproductive business venture.

Gary Saling, Holiday

Citizens will suffer

While I believe Gov. Scott wants and works toward a better Florida, his decision to turn down federal funding for high-speed rail is utterly devastating for our community.

High-speed rail is about attracting critical jobs and business, but it's also about people — people like my mom, who used to have to wake up at 5 a.m. to take several buses to get to her job across the bay and endure heat, rain and dangerous drivers while walking to stops and transferring lines.

High-speed rail would have increased services and opportunities for better bus systems, among other options. I'm glad Scott has a private plane, because his family would worry too if he had to take the bus every day.

Xenia Ruiz, Tampa

Other countries' example

I am amazed at the shortsighted decision by Gov. Scott to stop the high-speed rail project. I visited Japan a few years ago and rode the new bullet train from Nagano to Tokyo. It was amazing, and full of passengers. I'm sure many readers have had similar experiences in countries that are investing in the future.

We could have had this here. What a boost to tourism. Gov. "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" has just tossed hundreds if not thousands of jobs out the window. Our governor chose to ignore the state's own ridership studies and seems to have conjured up cost overrun estimates out of thin air. This is a sad decision for Florida, but it will benefit some other state.

Jeffrey Harper, St. Petersburg

Unwelcome expense

I unhappily agree with the governor and his analysis of the financial realities of the high-speed rail project. I agree that the ridership and revenue projections are overly optimistic. I do not think the project would affect traffic or repairs on the I-4 corridor in any meaningful way.

Once the rail system was installed and the initial interest waned, the cost to operate and maintain a system like this would rise, and ridership alone will not offset the financial liability of the system. Ninety percent of Floridians will neither use this system nor will want to keep paying for it as a subsidy.

Scott White, Tampa

Ridership estimates

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., speaking before the House rail subcommittee in Washington, mentioned a ridership report paid for and commissioned by the Florida Transportation Department that increased the ridership projections for the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail project by 15 percent over previous estimates.

Brown lamented that the report was close to being released before Gov. Scott's decision to reject the $2.4 billion in federal dollars for the project.

Because Florida's taxpayers financed this report, we also deserve to see it. Show us the report, governor.

Chris Smith, Tampa

Too dependent on cars

Gov. Scott's refusal of funding for high-speed rail provides yet another example of his misguided priorities. Our automobile dependence has an exceptionally high cost. It leads to sprawling patterns of development, the loss of valuable open space and wildlife habitat, and increases our dependence on foreign oil.

Laurel Wolfgram, Clearwater

Heading off a cliff

Kudos to our new governor for having the guts to refuse the bullet train. I just wish our media had a similar backbone to ask our president why he is pushing bullet trains built with money borrowed from China. The fiscal bullet train our country is riding on is heading toward a cliff at very high speed.

Laura Harris, Brandon

An economic engine

Our neophyte governor thinks it wise to turn down $2.4 billion worth of contracts and work in the worst business environment in living memory. And the basis for this horrible decision? That future ridership won't justify the state's contribution. This, in spite of two decades of data that the project is the economic engine of the future.

Tom Hayes, Dunedin

Stop deficit spending

Rick Scott has made exactly the right decision not to proceed with the high-speed rail. There is no money in the bank either in Florida or in the coffers of the federal government. There will be a time when it will be appropriate to fund this venture, but that time is when there are sufficient funds available and the federal government doesn't have to continue deficit spending.

Clack Nelms, Seminole

We can't afford it

Florida cannot afford another taxpayer-funded project with dubious cost and revenue projections. Nor can our country afford President Barack Obama's dreams for high-speed rail. Costs for similar ventures overrun by 50 percent or more, and ridership projections are inflated by local governments promising to "stimulate" the local economy.

Jack Ewers, Clearwater

Other priorities

Florida taxpayers have been opposed to the rail project for 40 years. Give them credit for knowing that this is just another pork-barrel calamity that will never turn a profit.

If governors of every state had the courage to tell Washington to stop wasting our money on pet projects, we just might be able to afford something useful, like health care.

Dan Holmer, Brandon

Long-term loser

Kudos to Gov. Scott for rejecting the high-speed rail project. Yes, at first glance it appears dumb to reject $2.4 billion in federal dollars (which, of course, are taxpayers' dollars). And, yes, it may sacrifice some short-term employment opportunities. But in the longer term, this would be an ill-fated project that would ultimately cost Florida taxpayers dearly.

We already have rail service between Tampa and the Orlando area. Also, the proposed rail stops leave out some key locations. And the suggested influx of tourists that might use rail is questionable, since they would still need transportation at either end of the rail line.

Peter Wiersma, Clearwater

The Amtrak example

All of those who believe that high-speed rail is a viable business, go solve the Amtrak problem and make it profitable. Then use that model to convince the rest of us that we should pour tax money into the high-speed rail.

L.B. Wing, Oldsmar

Scott's pinched agenda

Florida needs to move into the 21st century, and the rail project is one way this could be attained. It is getting clearer by the day as to the agenda the governor has: Anything the president puts on the table will be opposed.

The governor wanted to add jobs, and the rail project would have been a perfect opportunity to do so, but it wasn't his idea, so it was vetoed.

Mark L. Grantham, Gulfport

Rigid political thinking

Had U.S. presidents in the 1960s and '70s been as myopic as Gov. Scott is on the rail issue, this nation never would have ventured into outer space. Yes, rail is a bit of a financial gamble, but the potential payoff is huge.

As seasonal residents of Florida, we find it sad to see a governor who so obviously plays only to his base (tea party advocates and Obama haters), and at the same time refuses to open his mind on issues that require far more insight than rigid political ideology.

It will be nice to return in March to a state (Indiana) where the governor, Mitch Daniels, is not constrained by playing only to a minority political audience.

Larry Shores, Treasure Island

Florida loses out

For some time, the conservative mantra on taxes has been: "It's not the government's money; it's your money." Let's evaluate our new leadership by that standard. For every hard-earned dollar Florida taxpayers shell out to the federal government, we only get back 97 cents in federal sl spending. Compare that to neighboring Alabama, which gets back $1.66 for every one of its dollars. We rank 34th among the states at getting "bang for our buck," as opposed to 24th when Democrat Lawton Chiles was governor.

Our federal government wants to hand us $2.4 billion for high-speed rail. That is you receiving back your money, right? Yet your governor has arbitrarily decided the tax dollars you have already paid are better spent in New York, California or Washington state, where they're more than happy to accept your generosity.

Scott's reasoning: Florida can't afford its share of the bill. Well, the public's burden in state and local taxes is 7.4 percent, well below the 9.7 percent national average. How much will we be paying in continued unemployment benefits and social relief, instead of reaping tax revenue from 24,000 new job holders? How much more will the state pay in environmental cleanup and road repair from heavier road traffic, without federal assistance?

Adam Orenstein, Clearwater

Demand lacking

I want to thank Gov. Scott from canceling the bullet train rail line from Tampa to Orlando. We already have train service called Amtrak that could easily be improved for far less money, but that hasn't happened because there is no demand.

Ronnie Dubs, St. Petersburg

Jobs … for California

If leadership is about doing big things, someone needs to get that memo to Rick Scott right away. He seems all about dismantling big things: health care, high-speed rail, even the state government. Rick Scott just arranged for Floridians to help fund high-speed rail in another part of the country. Maybe when he says he's going to create jobs, he means in California.

Edward Miller, Tampa

Long-term losses

I'm sure the "bridge to nowhere" would have also produced jobs. However, spending billions of dollars simply to create short-term employment on a project that could lack long-term viability is shortsighted. Will the system generate sufficient revenue to support its operating costs? If not, who is going to pick up the tab? The local politicians and supporters might not be around when the citizens of Florida are stuck with the bill.

Joe Wareham, Tierra Verde

Into the past

Our governor's lack of foresight threatens both the future of Florida as well as our country.

The railroad during the 19th century, and the airlines and Interstate system in the 20th century were all investments in our country's future. They played a significant role in maintaining the United States as the leading economic power of the world.

China has over 5,000 miles of high-speed rail up and running and more under development. Its leaders understand the need to invest in the future. It takes a great deal of leadership, courage and foresight to invest in such programs. Lead us into the future, governor, not the past.

Jay Hall, Tampa

Lack of vision

Gov. Scott's decision to reject federal funds to build high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando demonstrates a clear and painful lack of strategic vision for the state and region. Scott's stance that the project represents too great a risk for Florida taxpayers is predicated upon questionable worst-case scenarios.

The federal grants Scott is rejecting were to total $2.4 billion and the state would be required to raise a matching $280 million. Scott's contention that this would automatically be state funds is dubious given the potential for private companies to foot the bill. If the state were dealing with a single interested company on the project, his expectations might carry more weight. The fact that there are eight private consortiums waiting to bid on the project, however, places Florida at an advantage in the process.

Eric Chambers, Lakeland

Saturday's letters: Readers debate governor's high-speed rail decision 02/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011 6:55pm]
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