Florida High Speed Rail Line Dies a Second Death

For the second time in four months, a governor is returning billions of dollars to the federal government for a major infrastructure project.  Like Governor Chris Christie before him, Florida Governor Rick Scott is sticking to his decision to kill the Tampa-to-Orlando high speed rail, the Mayor of Tampa said.

"Despite talks with the governor’s staff since Monday, and despite the validity of the arguments for the privatization of the High Speed Rail project, Governor Scott will not allow the project to move forward," Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said.

Last week, Scott abruptly announced he would be pulling the plug on the $2.7 billion rail line, the first true high-speed rail in the U.S.   The Tampa-to-Orlando line, which was also to stop at Disney World, was to have been complete in just four years — by 2015.  Scott said Florida’s $280 million investment carried too much risk, and that he would return $2.4 billion to the federal government.

New York and California have both made pitches to the federal government to get some or all of the $2.4 billion Scott is returning, but much of that funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and is subject to strict requirements about being shovel-ready. Sources say California, which has already amassed more than $10 billion for a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail line, is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of the Florida decision.

This makes for the second time members of Congress, local politicians and the U.S. DOT unsuccessfully tried to convince a governor to resume a big infrastructure project. The first time was last October, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie halted a $9 billion rail tunnel under the Hudson River, also citing the risk of cost overruns. Christie returned well over $2 billion to the federal government. The Federal Transit Administration is trying to recoup some $271 million New Jersey spent when it started to dig the tunnel. 

For a more detailed version of this story, go to TransportationNation.org