Yesterday, Florida’s newly elected governor, Rick Scott, announced he was rejecting the $2.4 billion he had received from the federal government to subsidize the proposed 84-mile Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line along the I-4 corridor. Here is Scott’s letter to an “extremely disappointed” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in which the governor lists several non-HSR transportation projects that would offer better returns on investment. Similar to the response from the Department of Transportation following mere skepticism on the part of of the governors-elect of Wisconsin and Ohio of the Obama administration high-speed rail plans, it is expected that the Department will pull the funds out of Florida and redirect them to other states, such as California.
As the Reason Foundation’s report on the I-4 corridor found, high-speed rail in Florida was destined to become a massive infrastructure boondoggle. Author Wendell Cox noted that canceling the project would result in $280 million in state matching funds being freed up to spend on more sensible transportation infrastructure projects. Having an administration that has demonstrated itself to be hostile to an efficient, mobility-enhancing transportation system — preferring instead to subsidize high-speed trains for wealthy urbanites, wasteful transit, and “livability” projects — means states have to be far more careful with how they allocate their own transportation funds.
Not everyone is thrilled with Gov. Scott’s wise move. Mitch Perry of Tampa’s Creative Loafing alternative weekly blames “Rick Scott’s ego,” sanctimoniously claiming:
And Rick Scott’s decision to kill the Tampa-to-Orlando high speed rail route has maximum impact, as an untold number of jobs won’t be filled, and the dreams and aspirations of many in the Tampa Bay region are at least for now, thwarted.
If “the dreams and aspirations” of many Tampa residents hinged on the proposed high-speed rail line to the Orlando airport, the city has far bigger things to worry about. Of course, Perry fails to mention that Tampa metro voters in November killed a proposed rail transit system. Most pro-rail transportation cheerleaders admit integrated rail transit is a prerequisite for high-speed intercity passenger rail success (or, as I’d put it, for the project not becoming as huge of a fiscal black hole).
For more on Scott’s decision, see Reason Director of Transportation Policy Bob Poole’s post here.