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UPDATE: Florida gets more time for high-speed rail

by Dara Kam | February 25th, 2011

UPDATE: Lest there be any confusion about where Gov. Rick Scott stands on the issue, the governor used the Web’s social networks to make it clear.

@FLGovScott directed followers to his Facebook site with this Tweet: “My position remains the same on High Speed Rail http://on.fb.me/eaEoiD”

Here’s Rick Scott’s Facebook message:
“My position on High Speed Rail remains unchanged. I believe High Speed Rail is a federal boondoggle, as I said more than a week ago. This morning I communicated to Secretary LaHood that as long as Florida remains on the hook for cost overruns, operating costs and paybacks in the case of default, I will vigorously oppose this project.
Since that time, Secretary LaHood has extended his own deadline for coming up with a way to alleviate Florida’s risk on High Speed Rail. While I appreciate his continued efforts to keep the project alive in Florida, it is important to note that I have yet to see any proposal that accomplishes my goal of eliminating risk to Florida’s taxpayers.”

Florida’s still on track to get $2.4 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail project from Tampa to Orlando, the latest twist in a tea party-related transportation tale.

Gov. Rick Scott, who rejected the money last week, met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this morning in Washington.

Today was supposed to be the deadline for Scott to change his mind and accept the funds, something he insisted he would not do up – until today.

After the meeting, LaHood agreed to give Scott another week to consider alternate proposals.

“This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project that will create jobs and economic development for the entire state of Florida. He asked me for additional information about the state’s role in this project, the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as how the state would be protected from liability,” LaHood said in a statement.

“I have decided to give Governor Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami, and to consult with his staff at the state Department of Transportation. He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.”

Scott said he refused the funds because he remains convinced that the state would be on the hook for some – if not all – of the costs of the $2.7 billion project. He’s relying in part on a conservative think tank’s ridership analysis. And he’s come under pressure from tea party activists who see the project as symbolic of government waste.

Read reactions from Florida lawmakers and officials scrambling to come up with a proposal that meets Scott’s muster.

“ I am grateful the governor has agreed to listen to the facts on how the state will have no financial responsibility in high speed rail. I’m especially grateful to Secretary [ Ray ] LaHood for giving Florida at least one more week before our money goes to another state. Hopefully, this will be enough time for people of good intentions to come together and put Florida’s interests first. There is too much at stake for us not to try everything we can.” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

“I am pleased an agreement has been reached between Governor Scott and Secretary LaHood to extend the timeframe for consideration of additional alternatives for the Florida rail project. I hope a sub-grantee arrangement can be structured that will salvage part or all of the project in a viable way that will protect Florida taxpayers from financial risk.” U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., and the House Transportation Committee Chairman. Mica came up with a plan that would have limited the project to the first 21 miles.

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19 Responses to “UPDATE: Florida gets more time for high-speed rail”

  1. brad Says:

    Rick scott is a moron and a criminal!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. SAY NO!! ANOTHER FLEECING OF TAXPAYER Says:

    JUST KEEP SAYING NO RICK! It is a proven fact there will not be enough ridership to EVER pay the maintenance costs and employees EVEN IF IT WAS ALL DONE FOR FREE!

    Tri Rail, Amtrac etc….All NEVER PAID FOR THEMSELVES! This will not either.

    WHO HAD A LOBBY TO CONVINCE ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND ORLANDO TO TAMPA IS A HEAVY USE ROUTE??

    IF and I say IF we were a rich country with money to burn Miami to JAX maybe via Orlando & Tall would somewhat make sense. NOT Tampa to Orlando???

    This cannot pay for itself no matter what they promise. Overruns and constant upkeep make this unsustainable. IF it needs to be subsidized. (like sports stadiums and Ethanol) IT HAS GOT TO STOP.

    THESE JOBS WOULD ONLY BE TEMPORARY AND FOREVER US TAXPAYERS WOULD BE PAYING FOR THIS EXPENSIVE PERK TOO FEW WILL USE.

    DO NOT GIVE IN MR SCOTT! SAY NO THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR THIS.

    WE NEED SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICAL CARE FOR ALL (NOT ILLEGALS THO) NOT MORE TRANSPORTATION AND WAR COSTS.

  3. Joe Says:

    So when the federal government says that there will be no cost to Florida, is he referring to the maintenance cost of having the rail once it is complete? If the rail loses $100 million a year after completion will the Feds be responsible, and thus the nations taxpayers?

    It is so interesting to see all the democrats be such supply side economists with this stimulus money. For decades they have vilified Reaganomics, but now their attitude, is “build it and they will come”. What a marvelous turn of events.
    To bad it doesn’t really work.

  4. weelzup Says:

    Rick Scott is an idiot… 2.4Billion for FL and he doesn’t want it or the jobs it brings because the Tea Party says so… morons… the lot of ‘em.

  5. Gipper Says:

    $2.4 billion is enough to make 8,000 jobs that pay $60,000/year for 5 years. Surely we could use that money for something we need in Florida instead of this boondoggle.
    Look at Norfolk, VA’s recent fiasco with a commuter rail system. They are 50% over budget and still not done.

    JUST SAY NO…but don’t let them send our tax money to another state.

  6. Tim Says:

    gov’na Scott needs to check in with his boss, David Koch, to see what the boss thinks he should do. Sorry ‘baggers, he doesn’t give a damn what you think now that he has the job. He only listens to the IMPORTANT people now.

  7. Ann Says:

    Rick Scott is a real mean moron. Tea party buddies are the ones who want all Government services free of cost, but don’t want to pay taxes. There are no free lunches. Stop flushing trillions into wars protecting oil corporate interests—then we are fine. Why didn’t Rick Scott had Maddoff as his cell mate? I dream about that day!!!

  8. Shari Says:

    Scott and FL:
    Take the money and/or there are a few states who will be more than happy to bring that that type of transportation inmprovements while providing for over 25,000 jobs. Scott, please think about the economic boost for employment, housing and education.

  9. Go Rick Says:

    No rail Rick. It’s a waste and we don’t need it. The feds and the unions need to stay out. If it was such a great idea let private venture capital build it and profit from it.

  10. mike Says:

    Scott is stuck between a rock and a hard place. One the one hand the t-party that voted him in says no, and on the other hand his gop legislators want their pork money. So it is big business v. constituents. I am betting he will side with business.

  11. Bob Says:

    I may not think highly of the crook in Tallahassee, but he’s right on this one. No-go on high-speed rail. Nobody will give up the privacy of the car for a train to nowhere, followed by a stinky bus that still won’t get you close to the office. Besides, the voters of this state shot down the high-speed idea in 2004 as a constitutional amendment. I doubt we have changed our minds, even with this start-up bait from the Feds. Bad idea.

  12. Biill Neubauer Says:

    It’s still a boondoggle. This dodge to write some kind of responsibility on the part of the developer is a snare and a delusion. If (as is certain) it becomes a financial responsibiity, all the developer has to do is go bankrupt, and we taxpayers will be stuck with another federal folly.

  13. Jeanne M. Priez Says:

    Another example of the children running this country being told ‘NO’. I applaud Governor Scott for saying ‘NO’ and sticking by his guns. ‘No’ means No’! period. Our Federal government has apparently turned to the loan sharking business. Oh wait…they’ve been in the business of pillaging the states and the taxpayers for the past 45 years now. No means No. Florida does not want or need the 2+billion dollar ‘shark loan’ funding from the feds. Florida does not need a high speed rail, nor do we want it. Did these morons who favor this project even look at the waste of taxpayer money covering the costs of keeping Tri-rail in place. Thankfully, Governor Scott HAS done his homework and can spot this ‘boondoggle’ (a useless or wasteful project or activity) before the feds can ‘high speed’ their way deeper into the taxpayer pocket. No means No!

  14. The tragedy Says:

    We need to do this as a federal project, like Amtrak of the interstates. Get dumb Florida government out of it. Let Obama take the credit for creating all the new jobs.

  15. FloRida Says:

    So, Govt. Scott has an opportunity to create jobs and he says NO?! I want the rail system! I use (pay for) public transportation! What about the regular folks who represent the majority of the population? This is sad.

  16. Carol Says:

    If this project goes forth, the trains and apparatus to run them will NOT be built in the U.S. We no longer have Pullman, Budd Company, etc. Who will pay to maintain a rail line that might be used heavily for a few months of the year as snowbirds head south? Not me, I hope and pray.

  17. wes Says:

    Maybe there is hope that the crazy egomaniac may finally be seeing the light.

  18. David H Dennis Says:

    All but one of the pro-rail people express a desire to spend Federal money, not to ride the train.

    I congratulate the one person in this thread who actually uses public transport. He represents about 1% of Florida’s population. If this rail line were to be built, he might be its only passenger – except that he’d find that it would cost about $100-odd per trip (based on fare projections for similar systems). Being a public transport user, if he wanted to go from Tampa to Orlando, he would probably take the existing $15-odd Amtrak service, not the high speed rail.

    I support transportation projects people actually use. Except in the extreme short term (while the system is being developed), high speed rail is a complete disaster. A project designed to shred $100 bills would have about the same impact as high speed rail. Actually, it would be better to dig ditches and fill them in, since if we bought high speed rail, the state would be on the hook for operating costs essentially forever.

    Rick Scott may or may not be a crazy egomaniac, but he’s making the right decision here. If he was a crony capitalist keen on helping his pals, he would be all for this project. Instead, he’s against it – which is a heroic stance on behalf of taxpayers — us.

    Hope that helps.

    D

  19. melody Says:

    Can’t get any of those cars off the highway with high speed rail because that would cut down on oil company profits! Isn’t Florida governor involved in oil drilling components?

    If any of these Republican governors were calling for end to oil company subsidies and tax breaks that would be different! Then you could believe they want to cut government spending!

    How are continuing the decade of corporate and wealthy tax cuts going to create any jobs when it hasn’t so far? Then where are the jobs going to be governors?

    Gulf of Mexico oil extraction that provides nothing in royalties and plenty of liabilities to Florida from spills and pollution? When are the oil refineries being built in Florida with those jobs then if it is to be only drill baby drill mentality?

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