Florida Governor Rejects Federal Funding for Florida High Speed Rail Project

February 16, 2011

Florida Governor Rick Scott has just announced the rejection of $2.4 billion federal stimulus dollars that would have been  used to build a high speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando, saying the project would be “far too costly to taxpayers” and that he believes “the risk far outweighs the benefits.”

The American High Speed Rail Alliance (AHSRA) is disappointed in the Governors decision to reject the funding. “Florida was on the right track to becoming one of the first high speed rail project in America,” said Mary Ellen Curto, Executive Director of the American High Speed Rail Alliance. “AHSRA had looked forward to Florida’s leadership in the 21st Century transportation infrastructure arena. ”

Scott had previously opposed the state’s required $280 million in matching funds, but those in support of the rail project have said that the private consortiums of companies set to bid on the line indicated willingness to foot the bill to cover construction and operations risks, in exchange for the right to operate the trains. The Governor’s decision was made before those companies had an opportunity to respond to the state high speed rail authority’s request for proposals.

Florida has a track record of cooperative relationships with private equity and public projects, working together to achieve mutually desirable goals and high return on investments,”  Curto said  “The rejection of the funding eliminates the opportunity Florida would have had as a leader in American high speed rail and the continued success in public private partnerships.”

U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-FL) issued a statement saying, “… this is a huge setback for the state of Florida, our transportation, economic development, and important tourism industry.” In a speech today that AHSRA staff attended, Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo also echoed AHSRA’s disappointment in the Governor’s decision.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said, “Gov. Scott’s rejection today of high speed rail not only ends the hope of less congestion on our roads for Central Floridians stuck in I-4 traffic every day, but also stops a critical investment in Florida’s infrastructure that will cost our state 71,000 job-years.”

The Alliance hopes the federal stimulus dollars will be re-directed to other states investing in high speed rail projects. High speed rail investments provide both short-term economic stimulus and long-term competitive advantages that can significantly increase connectivity and productivity, while mitigating the costs of congestion.

For the Governor’s Full Press Release click here

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