In the wake of Florida governor Rick Scott’s refusal of high speed rail funds from the federal government, I have been left to wonder what could have been for our state. In time, this money may again become available, however, I believe that we have missed a golden opportunity. In the realm of state budgets, I will defer to the more experienced, but I believe that if high speed rail was a possible option for the state to run we should have taken advantage of it. With that said, its time to think about the future of high speed rail for Florida (yes, there is one).
One More Hurdle for Florida
The events that took place before Florida’s recent refusal of funds are really as important as those of last week. As part of President Obama’s platform, the administration had announced that it was going to invest more than $53 billion for high speed rail immediately, bolstering the $10.5 million already spent. According to the U.S. High Speed Rail Association (USHSR), The Washington Post, and The Dirt, the plan would cost over $600 billion over the next twenty years.
This in itself it one of the main reasons that detractors from the project say that Scott did the right thing in refusing the money. Had he accepted, the state’s already broke budget would have to fund the project beyond the federal government’s investment. They also state that the projects do not envision a system that would ensure high speed rail as a viable option in the life of everyday Floridians. Given the development trends of the last few decades, many Floridian do not feel that investors and developers would take to transit oriented communities and design as readily as the supporters would hope.
However, supporters have not been deterred by the Governor’s stance. Politicians such as the Mayor of Tampa, Pam Iorio, have turned to private investment for the project. They believe that investors have the means to make this project an even bigger success. In the scenario, an independent group would absorb the $2.4 billion cost as well as the risk, leaving tax payers out of the equation. They believe that this framework would benefit both the state as well as the investors.
It is now apparent that the governor has refused this plan to involve private investment into the project. As this saga continues, it is yet to be seen how the fiscally conservative and the supporters of this project – which includes senators that are now suing Scott – are going to resolve the issue of high speed rail. I don’t supposes the governor with budge, however we do know that Florida has been given till this Friday to accept the money before it is redistributed.
Benjamin Boyd is a student of landscape architecture at the University of Florida. He is the editor for Landscape Invocation and aspires to practice in the DC area upon graduation.