Railroads are infrastructure that works
Freight trains carry the load
Central Florida is our state's fastest-growing region. We're on track to outpace South Florida's growth 2-to-1 over the next several years. Great news for our local economy, but it necessitates a hard look at our infrastructure — the foundation on which commerce flows.
Unfortunately, Florida is falling behind, as evidenced by our "C" infrastructure grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. These shortcomings have real costs, from the added $327 Florida drivers each pay annually to drive on roads in need of repair, to the efficiency loss for businesses transmitting goods, to the time we spend waiting in traffic.
But there are bright spots that may pave the way for future solutions. The privately funded freight rail system, for example, is neither falling behind nor seeking tax dollars. Through a "user-pays" system, freight railroads plow billions ($100 billion over the last four years) into their infrastructure and operations.
CSX, headquartered in Jacksonville, spends millions each year on its Florida network — so companies can count on rail to move their goods ever more efficiently and affordably.
Railroads also play a huge role in international trade, hauling one-third of U.S. exports. At Port Tampa Bay, which contributed some $17 billion in economic impact to our region in 2016, rail is a key partner. The port has added new rail tracks in recent years to enhance its on-dock loading of intermodal trains. Rail is not only more efficient but it also eliminates the need for trucks that tear up roads and exacerbate local congestion.
To secure our economic future, we need to support strong transportation systems. Railroads, key to our state and national economies, provide an example — of what it takes to pay for good infrastructure, and the diverse economic benefits that follow when we do.
Sandra L. Murman, Tampa
The writer is chairman of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners. She represents District 1.
Fight over waterfront looms | June 8
Keep waterfront open
I am opposed to a designation to allow the proposed "sculpture" on Spa Beach near the new St. Pete Pier. I can envision a future with too many "amenities" that could make the waterfront like Coney Island. I am a lifelong resident who enjoyed the Million Dollar Pier, Spa Beach and Spa pool, and the streetcars that took one there. I am not opposed to the sculpture, only its proposed placement.
Wayne Mock, St. Petersburg
Putnam: 'No flags' on
revoked gun licenses | June 14
Another satisfied consumer
I was flabbergasted to learn that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been accused of laxity in managing concealed weapon permit background checks. After all, his Consumer Services Division has been so successful in stopping those annoying robo-call solicitations. I would write more, but I have to answer the phone. Jessica from Card Services usually calls about now.
Tom Lange, Clearwater
Greene says he'll spend whatever
it takes to win | June 14
Better uses for big money
Is there no limit to ego? Jeff Greene will spend up to $200 million to run for governor, and if he wins the Democratic nomination, bankroll fellow Democrats to help his party in competitive legislative races. He has already spent $24 million on a failed U.S. Senate campaign. So, please spare me the rhetoric on how Republicans spend so much money versus the Democrats. Could not this money be better spent on other issues — basic human rights, housing and schools to name a few. But there I go again, dreaming of pie-in-the-sky pursuits.
Barbara Santoro, Weeki Wachee
Trump, the anti-Reagan | Bret Stephens column, June 14
Trump's big stick
Theodore Roosevelt said to "speak softly and carry a big stick." President Donald Trump is carrying the big stick, and it appears to be working. There is only one asset that gets the attention of North Korea: our strength. His agreement in principle with North Korea is a starting point, an accomplishment that wasn't even attempted by our previous president. And if it fails, isn't it at least worth trying? Postponing war games with South Korea is a small price to pay up front for the promise of negotiations and stability. It's a much smaller price than the billions of dollars handed to Iran for doing nothing.
Robert Padgett, Clearwater
Term limit views shift | June 8
Careerist for thee, not me
I see many TV ads by people seeking office that "career politicians" are somehow bad for us. Strange. When we need medical care we want a career physician, just as we want a career mechanic to repair our car. Some of our best politicians have been careerists: Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush.
Those who want us to believe that politicians should not have experience in governing are frequently the same ones who have won political office, are term-limited, and simply want a new political position.
Ian MacFarlane, St. Petersburg
Rick Scott ad spending
hits $17 million | June 12
A ticket to nowhere, again
I suggest anyone thinking of voting for Gov. Rick Scott for the U.S. Senate take a little drive on I-4 between Tampa and Orlando. While you are sitting in the traffic, dead-stopped for no obvious reason, watching 18-wheelers and other drivers weave in and out around you, think about how nice it would be to have some sort of mass transit — perhaps high-speed rail — to help alleviate the congestion. Then remind yourself of what could've been if only Scott hadn't turned down that "nasty" Obama money to placate the tea party base. Hmmm?
Jen Hart, Lutz