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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

The Right Stuff

A politics blog by Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson's baseball card - if he had one - would report he throws left, writes right. In his columns and blog, "The Right Stuff," southpaw Jackson provides insight into the evolving human condition from a distinctly conservative point of view.

Obamarail jumps the track

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Increasingly, it appears Florida dodged a bullet when Gov. Rick Scott declined to enlist in President Obama’s plan for a national high-speed train network. Volunteer states have seen misspent millions and cost overruns in the billions.

It’s bad enough onetime Democrat enthusiasts are flipping and even the New York Times has taken note. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein extracts the essence:

In an article that appeared on the front page of the Times’ Thursday print edition, Ron Nixon wrote that “despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere.”

Nixon noted that “Instead of putting the $11 billion directly into [high-speed rail] projects, critics say, the administration made the mistake of parceling out the money to upgrade existing Amtrak service, which will allow trains to go no faster than 110 miles per hour.”

Liberals often argue that America is well behind Europe when it comes to train travel, but having a vast rail system in the United States makes a lot less sense. Europe is much more densely populated and its major cities aren’t as spread out. Somebody who takes a train from Barcelona and Paris can easily get around once in Paris without a car — but that isn’t the case in Los Angeles.

Or Tampa and Orlando — proposed as the initial links for Florida — for that matter.

California’s experience is instructive. Voters’ approval of $9.95 billion in high-speed rail bonds in 2008 earned a $3.5 billion grant from the Obama administration. Subsequently, Klein notes:

[C]ost projections have exploded, the project has been tied up in lawsuits, and the completion date for the major phase of the project has been pushed back 14 years, to 2034. It’s now expected to cost $68 billion, and there is no clear plan to raise the rest of the money now that federal funding has dried up.

[Worse], the project that was supposed to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco isn’t starting in major population centers. Instead, the first 130-mile stretch will be connecting Madera to Bakersfield.

With the public souring on the project, even Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a one-time ardent supporter of the project, has changed his mind.

“I would take the dollars and redirect it to other, more pressing infrastructure needs, and I am not the only Democrat that feels this way. And I’ve got to tell you, I am one of the few that just said it publicly,” Newsom said during a February appearance on the “Ben Shapiro Show.”

But Florida would have been different, right? Well. Don’t be bringing that silly private-companies-were-ready-to-provide-guarantees stuff around here. Talk is cheap, as alert followers of the proposed (and quickly abandoned, when the truth emerged) “private” elevated toll road for Pasco County know well.

Anybody who’d wanted to demonstrate confidence in the Florida project could have parked eight figures in an good-faith escrow account, and nobody was stopping them.

So there you go.

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