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Nelson tosses ‘Hail Mary’ for high-speed rail

by Dara Kam | March 4th, 2011

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is making a last-ditch effort to keep Florida in the running for a high-speed rail project even after proponents of the Tampa-to-Orlando line say it’s dead.

Nelson said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is considering re-opening the grant process for the $2.4 billion in federal funds awarded to Florida but which Gov. Rick Scott turned down.

The new process could allow the money to then be awarded directly to a new regional rail coalition comprised of local governments including the cities of Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Miami.

“If it can’t be done, then we’re done,” Nelson said in statement. “Meantime, there’s an old proverb: fall seven times, stand up eight.”

The Florida Supreme Court ruled this morning that Scott acted within his authority in turning down the funds. And the governor once again told LaHood – who twice extended the deadline for Florida to take the money after Scott rejected it last month – no thanks.

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26 Responses to “Nelson tosses ‘Hail Mary’ for high-speed rail”

  1. ricardus Says:

    One hopes someone is checking to find out how much money Bill Nelson will make on this train deal. If he denies any gain, he will be lying. He is a corrupt multi-term senator who back nothing without a check.
    This train is a taxpayer’s nightmare. Glad I don’t have to pay for it.

  2. Bo Says:

    When gas hits $5.00/gallon you’ll be wishing that rail line were here.

  3. In One Ear Says:

    It will still be cheaper to drive to Orlando with gas at $5 a gallon than to ride this train. Wanna bet?

  4. William Bailey Says:

    What an A**hole Bill Nelson is! We don’t want the train! What part of this doesn’t he understand? Guess the first post hit the nail on the head! He probably stands to make a killing off of it! 2012 can’t get hewre quick enough!

  5. Bill LePetomaine Says:

    The projected cost of a one way ticket from MCO to Tampa was $35.00 per person.
    $5.00 gallon gas is still cheaper. Gas would have to approach $16.00 a gallon.

    We’ve got to protect our phoney baloney jobs! Harrumph! Harrumph!

  6. OBIWAN Says:

    Not even the Floreeda Supremes caught the Train??

    Hmmmm….

    Is this why the Judges get 3.3% FRS pension, along with our Elected Officials getting 3% classed with Police and Fire as “SPECIAL”…

    …whilst Teachers and all others only get 1.6%??

    they missed the train??

  7. Jerry Sullivan Says:

    First of all, I am a passenger rail advocate — BUT — I am not a HSR advocate. I want restoration of the Sunset Ltd. east of NewOrleans, and AMtrak on the FEC, and Amtrak through Atlanta to the midwest, but all of that could be done for pennies compared to this HSR thing.
    KING SCOTT made the right decision, but it was not his decision to make, and I could care less that the courts wimped out on the deal. It should have been handled through the legislature, then he could have vetoed it, and likely as not the legistlature would not have attempted to over-ride the veto. That was the correct way. I did not vote for KING SCOTT and those of you that did will regret it when he takes on your train. What will be next, AMTRAK/FEC, SUNRAIL, AMTRAK PERIOD?

  8. Patriotson Says:

    Bill Nelson never saw a spending bill he didn’t like. The high speed rail is as redundant as Nelson. Wonder how much Nelson stands to lose personally on the failure to get this ponzi scheme impose on the Florida taxpayer?
    Florida would have gotten the money and the Florida taxpayer would have gotten the shaft on a system that cannot make a profit. It is cheaper to drive than to ride a rail that would have to be subsidize by the taxpayer. Thank you Gov. Scott for looking after Florida! Shame on you Bill Nelson. It is time for Floridians to Mabarak Bill Nelson and give us our Egyptian moment.

  9. Dean Says:

    Bill Nelson has done nothing for Floridians PERIOD!

  10. Darwinist Says:

    With fares only paying 16% of the costs of running Tri-Rail there is no question the rest of the taxpayers throughout the state will be subsidizing a high speed rail line. Why does the money have to be spent in other states if FL does not accept it. Why not pay off some of the debt to China with it

  11. Sid Says:

    Senator Nelson doesn’t get it.
    No public transportation is totally paid for by the using jurisdictions. They would never spring for the money it takes. Public transportation projects only get done when they are “free” to the users.
    How do you think we got a $14 trillion debt.

  12. eileen Says:

    Thanks Sen. Nelson. You recognize the potential for jobs and the need for improved transportation in FL. It was tops on mind last week as I sat in bumper to bumper traffic on my way into Orlando on I-4. My husband takes tri-rail to work in Ft. Lauderdale daily. Don’t knock the system, ’til you try it.

  13. heidelja Says:

    While the Vultures Circle

    http://blogs.ajc.com/jamie-dupree-washington-insider/2011/03/04/the-vultures-circle/?cxntfid=blogs_jamie_dupree_washington_insider

    LaHood repeatedly made no bones about his strong support for high speed rail money, though he didn’t explain why he’s been so open to preserving the Florida project, when he gave up so quickly after Governors in Ohio and Wisconsin rejected their own high speed rail money.

    “More than two-thirds of Florida residents support state/federal investment in high speed rail,” LaHood argues.

    President Obama goes to Florida today for an education event and two fundraisers in Miami, one for Sen. Nelson.

    To be seen is whether any high speed rail news gets made aboard Air Force One.

  14. heidelja Says:

    I LOVE these sorts of arguments against HSR:

    “The projected cost of a one way ticket from MCO to Tampa was $35.00 per person.
    $5.00 gallon gas is still cheaper. Gas would have to approach $16.00 a gallon”

    First, this automatically assumes EVERYONE has a car.

    Second, is this the CORRECT assumption to automatically make?

    Third, I suppose it is CORRECT by ones who have never have had any other options, other than say, a Greyhound bus. So, have you priced out bus tickets!

  15. heidelja Says:

    “One hopes someone is checking to find out how much money Bill Nelson will make on this train deal.” Haven’t you undertsood the raucous one-third in Florida who do not want HSR? It won’t make any money so how can Nelson profit by it? O, but if he can profit by it, couldn’t others be “profitting” by it, too? And to think! Isn’t this why the one-third say is their reason why it should not be built, or at least, the pencil necked one wearing Cowboy boots who says he represents ALL taxpayers in Florida?

  16. heidelja Says:

    My e-mail to Nelson at noon today:

    OMG!! “The Governor’s Office issued a statement that said Scott was ‘gratified that the court provided a clear and unanimous decision, [and] he is now focused on moving forward with infrastructure projects that create long-term jobs and turn Florida’s economy around.’”

    DUH….NOT THAT A $2.4B FEDERAL GRANT FOR HSR IN FLORIDA WOULD NOT HAVE ACHIEVED JUST A TINY BIT FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE??

    WHAT REALLY IS SCOOTER FOR?? SO FAR IT SEEMS THAT HE IS ONLY FOR A $300M BUDGET INCREASE FOR HIS STATE’S GOVERNOR’S OFFICE!

    And REALLY, WHY is HSR-Fla “DEAD”? Simply it goes seen as DEAD this morning, becasue LaHood has not given the Fla State Legislature the time necssary to COMPEL Scooter to take the money through the upcoming legislative session, by removing the grant offer from the table as of today! This is STUPID for the Obama Admin to allow and should be seen as prematurely conceding the state to the goofie “Republicans” in the 2012 election!

    How does the legislature compel Scooter to take the $2.4B Federal Grant for HSR? Simply it denies the tyrannical Governor’s Office the funds to do “its job” unless it takes the grant!

    THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, PEOPLE, IT IS POLITICS, INVOLVING ONE WHO WAS NOT ELECTED BY A MAJORITY OF THE BALLOTS CAST!

  17. Ed Fulop Says:

    This is a case study on why the 17th amendment needs to be repealed. If Bill Nelson were elected by the Representatives in the Florida House, as the Senate was originally intended to be chosen in our Constitution, he would not have even opened his mouth on the subject. State’s rights needs a champion at the federal level. While I agree that Governor Scott possibly/probably overstepped his authority in denying the funds, he would have been within his powers to deny additional/future funding, which there is no doubt would have eventually become necessary. There isn’t a rail system on this planet that doesn’t need more money than it collects from riders. We can’t afford the things we already have, let alone taking out loans to get new ones. Thank you Governor Scott for being true to your principles. And as for Senator Nelson, 20 months until Election (Moving) Day 2012 — call today to make your reservations, and beat the rush. 1-800-go-uhaul.

    Restore Honor. Flip the House . . . and Senate, too.

    http://www.southflorida912.org

  18. BM Says:

    Nelson does not own the land around the rail, but someone else certainly does. Just check the property records.

  19. da_truth Says:

    Florida needs more construction jobs, infrastructure, and transportation options. We need a whole lot less Medicare hucksters and coddlers of pill mills.

  20. CM Says:

    There is no better way to spend $200M in our state; high-speed rail would generate 40k jobs, plus all those tertiary businesses and the manufacturing of rail and rail-cars would likely be based on Florida (in perpetuity) as we would be the first leg of a proposed national …high-speed rail system.
    The bidding system had a built-in payment cap so the state cannot be over-billed and the operator is on-the-hook for all expenses for the next 20-years (with an insurance policy should they bail after a year or two.)

    This Federal money that is 100% guaranteed NOT to be asked-for back and with little to no risk to the state; taking the money is the way to go.

    We need jobs in Florida (and here they are ready to go); adding this rail system would be like creating our Tennessee Valley Authority project – letting the Federal Gov’t jump start our state. Unless you all like being #1… in unemployment.

  21. EdFulop Says:

    CM –

    Get your facts straight before posting on this blog. Firstly, the figure was $2.4 B-B-B-BILLION, not $200 million. Second, Florida would ABSOLUTELY have to pay it back to the feds if they stopped the project before completion — which there would be a pretty good chance that we’d run out of money before it was finished (uh, $2.5 billion budget deficit in Florida this year mean anything to you?). The other option here would be to borrow the money to finish it — more debt — and then continue to operate it afterwards at a loss — like EVERY OTHER bullet train ON THE PLANET; even more debt. Bullet train/High Speed Rail technology is already 30-40 years old, with the first ones being built in Japan in the 60′s. We have “smart highways” now, with the Sunpass toll collections from moving cars on the Turnpike and other expressways all over the state. You can drive from Orlando to Tampa on I-4 in about an hour, and the train might shave 10 to 20 minutes off of this trip. What’s the point? It MIGHT make sense if you had something running from Miami to Maine, but I doubt even that would be able to operate in the black — the airline industry is limping along as it is. Everyone would ride the Bullet train once, for the novelty of having done it — like the Concorde back in the 80′s — and then never again, but we would still be paying for it FOREVER. If there is such a bad traffic problem on this route from Tampa to Orlando, spend some money on widening I-4 and I-275, and use Sunpass tolls from the riders that use it to pay for it.

    Again, thank you Governor Scott.

    http://www.southflorida912.org

  22. Diana M Says:

    Don’t people understand that operating a car does not involve only the price of gas? Current federal reimbursement rates for business travel by car are 50 cents a mile. They factor in the REAL cost of driving… not just the cost of fuel. At 50 cents per mile, the real cost of driving those 85 miles is just over $40. How much is the price of a ticket? For daily commuters, the train begins to make sense. If you’re talking about a tourist family of four, the calculations would have to factor in the cost of a rental car, which runs about $50-70 per day, plus gas. In that case, MAYBE driving would make sense.

  23. Thomas Paine Says:

    AARRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!! I will PROMISE you that anyone interested in commuting from Tampa to Orlando already HAS a car, HAS car insurance, and HAS car maintenance as part of their own personal operating budget from home. The OPPORTUNITY COST for this person to weigh out is the difference between driving his car that distance — and thus the gas for trip — and the cost of the fare for the train, PLUS whatever he’ll have to pay in the train’s parking lot so he can leave his car there, PLUS the cost of his taxi/bus ride from the train station to his place of business (I’ll grant you this one if they work in walking distance from the train station, but that’s a long shot, because I’m betting the train station would have been near the airports, not downtown in either case). It’s basic economics.

    I can’t make it any clearer than this article below does. Would you agree that the state of California is in real financial straits right now? Well guess what? They happen to be a little further along in the high speed rail debate right now — the Governator took the money from the feds right away. Read this from last year:

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/07/silver-bullet-train-california

    C’mon people!! Wake up!! This is not the way to go.

  24. BigArch Says:

    If one were to build a rail system from Tampa to Orlando it would not be high speed at all. Next thing is folks need a car in Orlando to go from amusement to amusement.
    The most important thing to think about is the fact that this country is broke and the man in the whitehouse is killing the economy each and every day. In a short time most people will not be able to afford the prices of Disney and Sea World so that train will sit and rust.

  25. Diana M Says:

    It’s a good thing we’re not spending all this money on a foreign war… Oh wait. We are.

    And “Thomas,” of course people already have those items in their budgets. That doesn’t mean they aren’t spending the money. The more they use their cars, the more it costs them in money other than gas (oil, tires, air filter, tune-ups, etc), even if they budget for it. To think otherwise is like saying that the mortgage is the only expense of owning a home because you’ve already budgeted for property taxes, exterior paint, roof, termite prevention, carpet replacement, utilities, etc.

  26. Jason Schwarz Says:

    Please read LaHood’s letter to Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando, and the Governor.

    It unambiguously states that neither Florida nor any of the cities will have to repay the feds if the private company fails to complete the line. USDOT will sue them directly, and eat any loss.

    It unambiguously states that neither Florida nor any of the cities can be forced to subsidize the train’s operations in any way. If the private company walks away, the feds will sue them, and eat any loss. If no new private company is found to operate the trains without requiring subsidies, Florida and the cities will be perfectly free to let the tracks sit unused and rust.

    You can argue about whether it’s the best use of federal funds, but insofar as Florida and its taxpayers go, there IS NO downside to this deal. If we take the money, we get a free rail line that might be useful someday — especially when it gets extended to Miami.

    If we don’t take the money, some other state will get it and spend it on high-speed rail instead. Nothing that Florida does will return the money to the treasury nor redirect it towards paying the national debt. We can take it and use it to build something for US, or let it go to California. Either way, the money is going to be spent on HSR.

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