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Last week newly-elected Florida Governor Rick Scott turned down $2.4 billion in Federal money for a high speed rail project despite knowledge of a newly revealed Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) study that forecast the venture would net a $10 million surplus in its very first year of operation. He did so saying that the Sunshine State couldn't afford to build the HSR project despite assurances from a coalition of municipalities and other officials, including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, that the risk to the state had been eliminated.

Now, instead of getting the foundation of a future greener transportation infrastructure and the initial 24,000 jobs it was estimated to create, Floridians will have to pay back $110 million already drawn from the Feds for the project and look forward to decades of increasing congestion and resulting air pollution. Take a bow Mr. Scott, nicely done. Click past the break to peruse the FDOT study summary.

[Source: NPR / Miami Herald]

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  • 86 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hmmm..

      The debate seems to have reached a point where the issue of railways in general is the issue. I am not a US citizen, (though I have a green card for business purposes) but if I may make the following observations.

      If you set aside the left- right ranting. (and some just plain ranting). You seem to be left with two issues: Is Investment in Rail Infrastructure Worthwhile and should Rail be supported with Tax-Payer Funds.

      Like most issues, both opposing sides have merit.

      The conservative says, "Rail is inefficient, can never make a profit, and simply eats tax-payer funds that would be better spent elsewhere."

      The leftist says, " Rail is environmentally beneficial, provides a valuable service to a large number of disadvantaged people and the only reason it doesn't make a profit is the infrastructure has been allowed to run down through inadequate investment for decades."

      Now one thing both sides should agree on is that rail moves very heavy, bulk cargo across land more efficiently than road. So most nations need a rail network of some kind. The argument becomes more murky when you start to evaluate passenger services.

      I live most of the year in Melbourne Australia. Melbourne is city of about 4 million citizens, and like most US cities has sprawling suburbs. Melbourne is fortunate to be serviced by the world largest and oldest comprehensive combination of public transport network consisting of electric trams and trains.

      Oddly, the city does not have a rail link to the airport. This is because the state government short sightedly entered into a series of contracts with the freeway(toll) operator and car park owners not to build a rail link or pay compensation for losses.

      Nevertheless, the trains and trams, although operating efficiently under the private operators. still require government subsidies.

      The government offsets these costs against the need for road infrastructure and retaining a vibrant city core.

      But suddenly as fuel prices keep rising, intra-state travel by plane or car is becoming increasingly expensive and Australia casts envious eyes at Japan and European modern rapid rail transport systems.

      It would require vast sums of capital to revitalise ageing and neglected rail net work in most large nations. But as the age of oil comes to an end, it may be time to revisit this forgotten infrastructure in a more positive light, and see if with new technology it revitalise rail to enjoy a future with unexpected profits and benefits.

      It will be a challenge for the left to be pragmatic and realistic, and the right to be innovative and long-sighted.

      Just my thoughts.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Has any one of you traveled to Europe or Japan?

      The flagrant ignorance demonstrated on these negative posts is an affront to intelligence and common sense.

      Instead of parroting the propaganda espoused on the Ruport Murdoch Terrorist Network, get off of your ass and go to western Europe, go to Japan... even China has a modern high-speed rail system!

      Then make an informed post.
        • 3 Months Ago
        Ron: What about all those socialist roads you've been using all your life? The fact is that our automobile-reliant transportation system is very very very heavily subsidized by tax dollars (road construction/reconstruction, road repair, snow/ice removal in winter, government ownership of the space roads occupy, etc...).
        • 3 Months Ago
        Ron's point about population density is a strong one. Europe has from 1039 people per sq mile in the Netherlands to 660 in the Uk to 593 in Germany to 295 in France. Japan has 873 people per square mile and China 360.
        The US has 83 people per square mile.
        That having been said, it is worth it for strategic reasons alone for the US to subsidize rail travel. Plus having a viable rail option for commuting or travel makes our driving easier and faster. It also puts a limit on how much trucking companies can charge, bringing shipping costs down for all of us. $2.6B is a lot of money, but being able to strengthen and entire mode of transportation make it a bargain. But lets use our money wisely, getting the best bang for the buck. Florida wasn't the place for that money to be spent. The NorthEast corridor, California to Seattle, New York to Chicago and Chicago to DC are the high traffic areas. Spend the money there by double tracking the areas where there is a single track in place now. Smooth out some of the sharper corners, trench some of the trackage that is slow due to it being in metropolitan areas and accelerate the widespread implementation of Positive Train Control to enable the trains to speed from 79 mph to 110 mph sooner. Do the easy stuff, then do the expensive stuff like HSR in Florida.
        • 3 Months Ago
        I lived in Europe for 6 months. I lived in Washington DC for 3 months. I am familiar with mass transit.

        Europe has 12.5% unemployment. Europe is drowning in debt. It's socialist utopia is coming to an end. http://www.cnbc.com/id/42006058

        Europe and Japan and China have a population density several times that of the U.S.

        It would make more economic and environmental sense to but every American a Volt/Leaf/Prius/Cruze Eco.
        • 3 Months Ago
        @ziv

        slightly off topic (but only slightly):

        Even though I don't agree with everything you post (and I suspect we have widely divergent political outlooks) I have to say I enjoy the fact that you are civil, intelligent, and able to back up your comments. It is a pleasure having posters of your caliber here.

        more on topic:
        I agree with your assessment of this particular project. It may not be the best use of limited public transit funding.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If I wanted $2.4 Billion to find its way into my hands I could come up with a study that show whatever you wanted it to, as was the case here. The reality is that the money in question would not even be enough to complete all of the studies for such a project, much less prevent the State from throwing good money after bad. A "operating surplus" of $10MM won't pay the interest on the bonds needed for a $15-20 billion project.

      High speed rail is a great addition to a well thought-out transportation infrastructure. But that infrastructure does not exist in the area proposed for this project, nor would it be reasonable to think that it could be created in the time-frame of the project. People are not going to take a high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando when they have no place to park their car in Tampa and then have to walk to work in the rain when they get to Orlando. Without buses and other feeder networks in place the rail project will not be able to make money anywhere except on some government forecast.

      The better use of resources today is to get local mass transit systems working in the metropolitan areas and then look to interconnect them once they are standing on their own two feet.

      One final thought. For those that know the layout of Florida you may notice that it is a bit longer than wide. It may make a wee bit more sense to have a high speed rail to deal with the long haul going North-South and let something else pick up the East-West traffic.





      • 3 Months Ago
      The GOP and Democrats Swapped :

      I think they both evolved into something else, personally I would that they were banned.
      They have a monopoly on Government, they have used taxpayer money to finance their own "party elections" - aka those primaries before the election where party selects who will face off against the opposing party. Why is our tax dollars going to pay for private political corporations ? If you do not think they are corporations - look again..
      • 4 Years Ago
      THIS is what happens when you let politics get in the way of what is best and will work best for the people of your state
      • 4 Years Ago
      Speaking as a Florida resident, Gov. Scott has already demonstrated a penchant for canceling projects where the taxpayer "might be on the hook" for any overruns.

      As such, I recommend he cancel his term.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If it really is going to be profitable, why don't all you Democrats take YOUR OWN money and build the thing. They you will get to make the alleged profits AND tell the rest of us how wrong we were.

      Not willing to invest YOUR OWN money? Then why should the rest of us allow you to invest OUR money???
        • 3 Months Ago
        Ron, if all you Repblicans hate the government so much, please stay off of our government roads.
        • 3 Months Ago
        floorman56

        You are correct sir. I suppose you will be cutting a check for your portion of the interstate highway system then. Not having to pay for anything I don't personally use is getting better and better.

        This is going to be the Best. Swimming. Pool. Ever!
        • 3 Months Ago
        @floorman56

        "Tell me how will EV's pay theirs?"

        The same way you get yours paid for... my general taxes. In 2007 gasoline taxes paid for 51% of the interstate system. That was down from 61% in 1997. Some cash cow, huh?

        http://subsidyscope.org/transportation/highways/funding/


        @Ron

        and (4) build more public transit options so that our national dependence on imported oil is reduced.


        btw:
        "Producing enough ethanol to replace America's imported oil alone would require putting nearly 900 million acres under cultivation—or roughly 95 percent of the active farmland in the country."

        http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/alternative-fuel/biofuels/4237539
        • 3 Months Ago
        Hollywood F1, you missed the point of the article. According to the article, the train will be profitable. We don't need to argue about secondary benefits. We just need Democrats to invest THEIR OWN pension funds in the project. No need to pay off The One, or San Fran Nan or Harry Reid for government support. The profit is all yours for the taking!!!

        Why would Democrats/Collectivists fight this? They are going to make a profit off the investment. They should immediately take all of their union pension funds and build trains and tracks all over the country (with union labor, of course). Then, every time a Republican rides the train, the Democrats will make a profit.
        • 3 Months Ago
        Ron,

        Amen brother. Brilliant idea.

        Now if you could just cut a check for $55,000 for your portion of the Iraq war that would be great. I'm looking forward to getting a new in-ground (socialist) swimming pool.
        • 3 Months Ago
        my general taxes. In 2007 gasoline taxes paid for 51% of the interstate system

        So you are going to reduce the taxes you pay to the highway system by 51%? Who is going to take up the slack? after all you guys keep telling me that EV's are going to take over car sales

        and there would be plenty of money in the system if the government did not pull from it for the general fund
        • 3 Months Ago
        bvz, I've got a better idea: get out of Iraq. And Afghanistan. And Saudi Arabia. Let the Arabs and Persians and Pashtuns all kill each other.

        Then (1) stop importing oil from the Middle East, (2) require all cars sold in the US to be Flex Fuel vehicles and (3) use OUR corn to make ethanol to power OUR vehicles.

        As for the Somali women popping out 7 babies in a country that can't feed itself... not...our...problem.
        • 3 Months Ago
        You are correct sir. I suppose you will be cutting a check for your portion of the interstate highway system then

        I do, Every time I fill up. Because of that I have a road that runs up to my house that I get to use every day and that I let other people use to bring me stuff.

        Tell me how will EV's pay theirs?

        And yea lots of roads started out as private toll roads Until the government found out what kind of cash cow they were and took over
        • 3 Months Ago
        "And yea lots of roads started out as private toll roads Until the government found out what kind of cash cow they were and took over"

        Please do elaborate. Just what kind of a cash cow is the highway system?

        (Hint: That's a trick question, roads don't pay for themselves, and in most cities, property taxes are used for road construction, whether or not you own a car.)
        • 3 Months Ago
        bvz

        You are aware that defence is the ONLY thing that the Constitution says the government HAS to spend money on?

        But look at the bright side ... We are NOT doing anything Libya. If people die trying to get freedom and still loose .... So what , We are saving money
        • 3 Months Ago
        That's very clever. You trick us into paying for it, and your economy benefits, and your gas prices stabilize, and your land around the stations goes up, and your roadways improve both from reduced usage and increased tourist tax revenue.

        The point is, there are innumerable secondary benefits, large and small, to millions of people whether or not they take the train.

        Think about it-- you benefit from many many forms of transportation that you don't use directly. You're the kind of person who would have spoken out against the Panama Canal and the Interstate Highway Act. These are all forms of grease for the economic machine, and it so happens that this one, unlike many, turns a first-order profit.

        The truth here is simple-- 1) Republicans will trash the future to save this quarter. 2) Established companies will pay-off conservative politicians to protect their interests. 3) Conservatives will continue to pretend that it is best to be an island, and not work together as a society, in spite of the fact everything that makes this country successful is not profiteering, but the investments we have made in the people and infrastructure of this country.
        • 3 Months Ago
        Please do elaborate. Just what kind of a cash cow is the highway system?

        Toll roads are.. also the general highway fund is too. The Gov is always draining money from it to put into the general fund. Tell a Dem you want to lock the gas tax to highway funds only and watch them scream
      • 4 Years Ago
      ziv -- Conservatives = Take as little of your money in taxes as possible because you know best what to do with your own money.

      Best laugh I've had all day.
      Republican governors are right now Robbing their Taxpayers blind with Transfers to Corporations. Busting Unions, to be able to PRIVATIZE those state jobs, at TWICE the Price.

      Your taxes are going UP dude.

      You need to follow the news and WATCH what the crook you voted for is Actually doing. Republicans don't stand for anything, except theft.

        • 3 Months Ago
        Yep, every time they "privatize" a government function, the quality of service goes down or the cost goes up, or we get both higher cost AND lower quality! The reason is quite simple - it adds an extra layer of corporate bureaucracy that must be paid for, and the private corporations demand a profit margin not seen with government operations.
      • 4 Years Ago
      being that big and heavy, with all that rail to maintain and pay for and all that way to pave for it, I'm not sure it's that green a solution actually.
      of all the ways you could spend 2bn to solve green problems, this isn't on my list.
        • 3 Months Ago
        @ Dan Freidriksen,

        Poor ol' Grampas 1! Sad, no one else 'round the cracker barrel today! Nothing to talk about? Never mind ol' Dan will just chip in with some gloomy miserable, meaningless grumble.

        Until you have $2 billion, no one care what's on your list!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Since when are roads self-sustaining?
      • 3 Months Ago
      Actually, Chris, I think you'll find that many of not most conservatives and libertarians tend to be equally sceptical of big government and big business. Note the adjective - big. The mistake you make is assuming conservatives and libertarians see NO role for government and NO need for taxations. This is not true. They see a difference in scope.

      And we are not particularly enamored of big business which, as often as not, will side big government in various rent-seeking schemes that are to the detriment of the taxpayer. What exactly is it that Jeff Immelt is doing in the Whitehouse? If you look to see where the corporate money went in our last presidential election you will find it went to the Obama campaign. Among his top donors were Goldman-Sachs and J.P. Morgan.

      But back to the difference between big government and government. We see and read an awful lot about food these days and how important it is buy from local farms. People do this for many reasons: they believe it's more healthful, uses less energy, or they simply want to patronize their neighbor's business. Frankly, I'm sceptical about the first two but they are plausible but the last one makes good sense to me. Now then, using the food analogy: your local town/county government is the farmer's market and big government (i.e. the state and federal government) is McDonald's. That's how conservatives and libertarians think about the matter.

      • 4 Years Ago
      NICK - your facts are not accurate: Here they are:
      Democrats have had far more years of wars then Republicans and had been sitting presidents when they started. As for the Republicans - the Civil War and the Spanish American War - which political pressures from the Democratic Party pushed McKinley into he was against it.
      Truman sent troops into Korea.
      Truman sent advisors into Vietnam and backed the French [Google It], afterwards Ike sent more advisors, and then Kennedy, and then Johnson sent in millions.
      Add up the years in just the 20th Century - how many years under Democrats ? How many under Republicans. I think you will find 22 Plus years for Democrats and if I add up Panama, Grenada and Gulf War 1 ; I think we Might total 3 months.
      So if you include the 21st century - republicans are still less than half - not saying it is good just telling the facts.
        • 3 Months Ago
        'Until the roaring 20s and the great depression, the Democrats were the selfish, racist pigs. Now the opposite is true.'

        Maybe, maybe not. Politicians are a species unto themselves and bear careful watching no matter their party. That said, the late Robert Byrd, a Democrat, died in office as Senator from West Virginia not too long ago. He was the last member of the senate to have ever been a member of the KKK. Had he been a Republican I'm sure you would have heard of it but I think it's less about race these days and more about elite privilege.

        Case in point the late senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy who successfully and, more or less single-handedly, blocked the construction of a wind energy project in Nantucket Sound. It's important to be green and certainly we all must make sacrifices but making a Kennedy look out the window and see, on the distant horizon, windmills? Q'uell horreur! That ought to meet your definition of 'selfish pig' and if not, why not?

        One more example: rendition, military tribunals for terrorists, drone attacks, and the USA-PATRIOT Act were all considered to be war crimes or treason or worse when Bush was president. Now that Obama has availed himself of each and every one of those tactics or laws not much is heard about it. If you complained then and not now, why? Or are you okay with all that?

        The idea that one party is good and the other bad is laughable. The only thing that matters is principle. As long as politicians believe you are on their team and will back their party and personality cult despite their actions they have no reason to serve anyone but themselves and that's just what they do.

        Nancy Pelosi appropriated funds for and used Air Force Gulfstream G5 jets for her personal convenience. John Boehner now, very pointedly, flies commercial home to his district. I'm betting Boehner would very much like to travel in the same manner as his predecessor but it simply isn't politically possible at the moment and that's a good thing. Should the public let their guard down, I'm sure in time you'll see Boehner, or some future speaker, back on the Air Force jets. It isn't that he's virtuous and Pelosi wasn't. It's that she could and he can't because the public is paying attention right now.

        The way to hold their feet to the fire is not to give them a pass by declaring fealty to the 'good' party and declaring the other 'selfish, racist pigs'. It's by letting them know you could not care less who gets to ride Air Force 1 and if they act foolishly with the treasury you'll vote for the other guy.
        • 3 Months Ago
        I'm sick of the modern GOP claiming Lincoln. The values of the GOP and the Democrats swapped sometime between WWI and the Great Depression.

        You put the selfish, ignorant GOP of today back in 1860, and Lincoln would be pro-slavery because it's economical to do so and the slaves had no rights, collective bargaining or otherwise. Can't beat free labor with no rights. That's what the free market says.

        Also, today's GOP would have allowed the states to secede, in the interest of "states rights" into splintered little countries that were easy prey for England and France to carve up as they pleased for their own interests.

        Until the roaring 20s and the great depression, the Democrats were the selfish, racist pigs. Now the opposite is true.

        Humans haven't changed, they just decided to play musical chairs with their labels.
        • 3 Months Ago
        CSW - Well said!
        I thoroughly enjoyed your commentary!
        • 3 Months Ago
        'You put the selfish, ignorant GOP of today back in 1860, and Lincoln would be pro-slavery because it's economical to do so and the slaves had no rights, collective bargaining or otherwise. Can't beat free labor with no rights. That's what the free market says.'

        Actually Adam Smith, who pretty much wrote the book on the free market claimed that slavery was a misallocation of resources. In economic terms, slavery had begun to collapse of its own weight prior to Lincoln. It may well have taken longer to have allowed it to collapse in this fashion rather than having the matter out in the civil war but no one knows for sure. Either way it was going to end.

        The labor wasn't free to the slave-owners just cheap and that advantage would not have lasted. First, the slave trade had to be supported meaning trans-oceanic trade by sailing ships. Slaves had to be captured or purchased in Africa. Many slaves did not survive the voyage. So a lot of that overhead had to be priced in to the market for the survivors. Once purchased many more died from exertion or illness or mal-treatment, etc requiring further outlay of capital. Slaves had to be at least minimally housed and fed, etc. And in certain areas slaves were prone to flight. This required security and supervision. All this was all predicated on a tenuous policy framework that was fast becoming unworkable. Finally, in time most of the manual labor provided by slaves would be supplanted by mechanization. Economically, slavery was a loser. Morally it was an abomination. An argument can be made that it lasted in America as long as it did because it was propped up by a substantial government subsidy in the form of the 3/5 compromise. Lacking that it would have died much sooner but, then again, the union may never have held together in the first place. Who knows?

        I have no idea what a modern politician of any party would have made of the situation. A disinterested observer of today's Washington would hardly have cause for optimism given that principle and even pragmatism usually take a back seat to interest and advantage in our policy discussions. It is that tendency that drives libertarians and conservatives to restrain the amount of money flowing through Washington. As long as the politicians have money to hand out, it will always go to people and interests most capable of helping them gain and retain power (read: not you and not HSR). You might get some scraps for HSR or public parks or what-not but there will ALWAYS be money to protect their perqs - count on it.
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