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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Florida governor to reject HSR funds


Today, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced he will return the federal high-speed rail funds the state has collected from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). The federal government had committed nearly all the funds Florida would need to construct the first leg of its proposed Tampa-Orlando system with $1.25 billion in stimulus funds, $808 million in FY2010 transportation appropriations dollars and $340 million that was being redirected to Florida after governors in Wisconsin and Ohio rejected high-speed stimulus funds in their states.

But “after thoughtful consideration,” Scott said he couldn’t accept the federal dollars.

His reasons: Capital cost overruns could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion; ridership and revenue projections for rail projects are “historically overly optimistic” and “would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur, from $300 million to $575 million over 10 years”; and if the project becomes too costly and is shut down, the state would have to return $2.4 billion to the federal government, according to a prepared statement.

“This project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” he said.

Scott’s reasons appear to be based on a Reason Foundation report issued in January (read the news item here). The report was co-written by Robert Poole, who serves on Scott’s transition team.

“Historical data shows that capital cost overruns are pervasive in nine out of 10 high-speed rail projects and that two-thirds of those projects inflated ridership projections by an average of 65 percent of actual patronage,” Scott said. “It is projected that 3.07 million people will use the train annually. Keep in mind that Amtrak’s Acela train in Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore only had 3.2 million riders in 2010. And that market’s population is eight times the size of the Tampa-Orlando market.” is awaiting comments from the USDOT. Those comments — as well as other reactions to Scott’s decision — will be posted as we receive them.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/16/2011