Florida is latest state to refuse federal high-speed rail funding
In an announcement Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott said that he would be returning federal funds for a planned high-speed rail project from Tampa to Orlando. Gov. Scott joins newly-elected governors in Ohio and Wisconsin who have also pledged to kill federal rail projects.
Over $2 billion in federal funds will be passed up by Florida Gov. Scott. He believes the project is doomed to cost overruns, putting state taxpayers on the hook for upwards of $3 billion. The governor also believes that estimated ridership numbers have been inflated to help make the case for high-speed rail.
“The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” Scott said in a statement.
Instead, Gov. Scott wants to invest money into the state’s existing infrastructure of highways, rail and ports to capitalize on trade agreements made in South America. “We should…be in a position to attract the increased shipping that will result when the Panama Canal is expanded when the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama are ratified and with the expansion of the economies of Central and South America,” he said Wednesday.
Despite, what Gov. Scott refers to as “risks” in high-speed rail, a study released last year by the US Conference of Mayors said that high-speed rail would be a major stimulant to the regional economies where hubs are planned. In addition to the nearly $20 billion in increased annual revenues for states and cities, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 2.8 million tons a year, the study indicated.
The study specifically cited Orlando as being in a position to create 27,500 new jobs and raise $2.9 billion in new revenue with high-speed rail.
Still, Gov. Scott is not the only governor to recently tell the US Department of Transportation to keep its high-speed rail funding. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio John Kasich have also publicly denounced projects in their state, sending money back to Washington.
Although it remains to be seen what affect the canceled projects will have on the local economies in their state, or if the projects’ costs were underestimated as these three governors have predicted, a tone among incoming Republican governors seems to be developing.
“Let us never forget, whether it is Washington or Tallahassee, government has no resources of its own,” Gov. Scott said. “Government can only give to us what it has previously taken from us.”