Are We Going to Move Forward?

Miami passed Los Angeles as the second busiest international airport. The state of Florida is heading for third in terms of population. It is a growing state that needs to stay competitive. If you’ve seen or read any bit of news in the past 24 hours, then you are aware that Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that he is rejecting the federal funding from the Obama Administration for the state's high-speed rail project. In his prepared remarks he said that it “came down to three main economic realities: “Capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion. “Ridership and revenue projections are historically overly optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur. (from $300 million - $575 million over 10 years) – Note: The state subsidizes Tri-Rail $34.6 million a year while passenger revenues covers only $10.4 million of the $64 million annual operating budget. “If the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.” For the capital cost overruns point of objection, some of the state’s congressional delegation and state lawmakers have a week to move forward without the governor’s approval and it’s being looked at for the private sector to have an opportunity to offer their proposals to finance the balance of cost and operation. One strike down, two to go. The Tampa to Orlando leg of high-speed rail is shovel-ready, has a low cost to build and strong support so it was an obvious first choice for the first line. The Florida plan has been stopped before and mitigating risk is key support. With Tea Partyists rallying to stop Obama’s plans, when the first U.S. HSR line gets built, it’s critical it’s successful. As the Hon. Corrine Brown (D-FL) said at the HSR seminar  “Fostering Economic Development in Florida through High Speed Rail: What Florida Can Draw from the French Experience” last year, “We want a system that works. If it doesn’t, the rest of the country won’t have it. “We’re trapped to do Tampa to Orlando first, but we have to have Miami to Orlando at the same time or as soon as possible.” It was continually stressed at that seminar that it needs to be thought of and spoken about as the Tampa to Miami line. The first leg may be the easiest to build but the Orlando to Miami leg is where the ridership will be. That additional ridership is what’s necessary to 1. Show people HSR can be a success; people will ride and 2. It will generate additional revenue toward operating costs.