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End of the Line for Rail Brawl As Supreme Court Ruling Sends $2.4 Billion Elsewhere

| March 4, 2011

trains crashing

Florida is so 19th century.

Federal money totaling $2.4 billion that had been earmarked for high speed rail in Florida will go elsewhere, the top federal transportation official said Friday as the Florida Supreme Court shot down an attempt to force Florida Gov. Rick Scott to climb aboard.

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday denied a request by two lawmakers to compel Scott to accept $2.4 billion in federal money for a Tampa to Orlando route, the first leg of a larger network that could have eventually stretched south to Miami.

The decision came hours before a federal deadline was scheduled to toll.

After speaking with Scott Friday morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood conceded that the Florida project would not leave the station and the money would be sent to willing recipients in other states.

“The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will not only create jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing sector in the near term, it is a crucial and strategic investment in America’s future prosperity,” LaHood said in a statement. “I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens.”

Other states, including California and New York, have already expressed interest in the federal pot of money, and several northeast senators have written a letter to LaHood saying the money should be sent there because they already have high speed rail that could be improved or expanded.

The high court’s unanimous ruling allows Scott to put the issue to rest, ending a fight that’s been going on for several weeks. The court ruled that Scott could not be bound by a 2009 legislative vote to accept the federal money, which had not yet been appropriated by the Legislature.

A petition to force Scott’s hand was filed Tuesday by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, two of several senators who disagreed with Scott on the rail. The court heard oral arguments Thursday, and then released a terse, one-page opinion Friday morning.

“Based on the limited record before the Court and a review of the federal and state law relied on by the parties, the Court has determined that the petitioners have not clearly demonstrated entitlement to quo warranto, mandamus, or any other relief,” the court said. “Accordingly, the emergency petition is hereby denied.”

Scott, who vehemently opposed President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus package, has repeatedly voiced skepticism about taking the money. In mid February, he officially announced the state would reject the $2.4 billion grant, about 90 percent of the total cost of the project.

Scott said the project would be a boondoggle that would never generate more money than it would cost to operate, and said he predicted that the state would ultimately be left on the hook for cost overruns. On Friday, Scott’s office responded quickly to the court’s ruling.

“The Governor is gratified that the court provided a clear and unanimous decision. He is now focused on moving forward with infrastructure projects that create long-term jobs and turn Florida’s economy around,” said Scott spokesman Brian Burgess. “He also spoke with US DOT Secretary LaHood this morning and informed him that Florida will focus on other infrastructure projects and will not move forward with any federal high speed rail plan.”

Scott wasted little time, announcing plans Friday morning to fully fund a $77 million shortfall for a Port of Miami dredging project to deepen the port so that larger ships can enter, an expansion that could bring 30,000 jobs to the state. Scott has touted the expansion of the Panama Canal as an economic boom to Florida that could mean more larger ships calling at Miami.

“This is the type of infrastructure project that will pay permanent, long-term dividends, and provide a solid return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers,” Scott said.

–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “End of the Line for Rail Brawl As Supreme Court Ruling Sends $2.4 Billion Elsewhere”

  1. notasenior says:

    I hope people will ponder the Governor’s decision as they sit in I-4 traffic day in and day out

  2. palmcoaster says:

    This Governor refuse the Federal funds for rail but also ponder his decision to improve the port of Miami to accommodate better among others the Arison’s Carnival and their other lines that make them the owners of the largest cruising fleet in the world that “does not pay taxes to operate of our ports, as they do it under foreign flag”…Also make it easier so all these Chinese and other Asian countries containers full of the imports that rob our jobs overseas can bring more imported junk contributing to more unemployment. Yeah I can see the 30,000 jobs that he will create with that dredging…than mainly is done by one manned large piece of equipment and will promote hiring of the more foreign workers on those ships…because sure will not be for more exports going out. Please recall R. Scott too.

  3. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Non sequitor anyone?

  4. palmcoaster says:

    Lawabiding is “sequitur” Latin.

  5. dlf says:

    Another fact less posting by our friend in palm coast, great job by Governor Scott. We need more elected officals who will do what they promise to do.

  6. rickg says:

    I totally agree with palmcoaster. 30,000 jobs is a joke unless you count the sailors from other countries coming into the port. Building a better Florida is not the goal of Governor Scott. He like his Republican bretheren are interested in getting richer themselves and making their billionaire colleagues even more rich.

  7. palm coaster says:

    I have to back down my incorrect asumption that large cruise ships require tug boats to get to port…they do not! Given special engines and bow shape etc. they already sail in and out the docks on their own. Tug boats are utilize for container cargo ships. As my call to some tug boat companies in Miami this morning clarified also if this Governor widens the access channel to the port will make it easier for cargo ships and the tug boats to maneuver. The strong changing current factors makes it impossible for a cargo ship to enter the port without a tug boat and its pilot guidance now, with the existing or future widened channel. Now this tug boats companies have not been informed any details of Scotts 77 million port improvement plan details. They said also that “a tunnel” is planned to be built to facilitate the tranportation of loading and unloading of the cargo containers in the port. As usual new plans, tag along new policies that create renewed concerns for the existing businesses, until formal communications take place.

  8. . says:

    At a cost of over 28MILLION per mile just in FED$$$ this sould be D.O.A. how much more would we the people of Florida be on the hook for to build and keep it going.

  9. I Think and I Vote says:

    High speed rail in Florida is the biggest boondoggle ever! It will not cost us only 2.4 billion. The state is expected to kick in an additional 2.7 billion. Now, the price of the high speed rail from Busch Gardens to Disney World is 5.1 billion and counting. How many people will have to ride that train to make that money back? How many jobs will that bring? When will it be finished, if ever? If you want to see the current classic boondoggle just look at the Big Dig in Boston. It is now running over ten times its original estimate and is still not finished after 10 years. My final comment is that if this high speed rail line was such a great idea and was actually going to make money instead of spending money that the US and Florida governments do not have, private investors would already have it up and running. Take a look at our history and see who built the original railroads in our nation and read on to see how government interference put them out of business.

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