With changes, rail can still work
Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011
Updated: Sunday, March 13, 2011 20:03
Since last year's State of the Union address, there has been much talk about a proposed high-speed rail that would stretch from Tampa to Orlando beginning in 2015.
Ever since Gov. Rick Scott took office, the plan has hit many hurdles and on Feb. 11, the Obama administration announced that the $2.4 billion allotted for Florida will be allotted to another state.
Scott's reasoning behind terminating the project was that he didn't want taxpayers to have to pay for what could turn out to be expensive operating costs in the long run. The flaw with that logic is that private companies would have assumed any surplus operating costs and paid for the extra $280 million needed to build the train.
In conjunction with this, Scott completely ignored a study conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation that found the high-speed rail would earn profit in its first year.
According to the study released last week, the project would produce a $10 million profit in its first year and by Year 10, that figure would soar to $28 million. These figures surpass the original profit estimations, but Scott is choosing to ignore them.
On top of that, the construction and implementation of the rail could have created numerous job opportunities.
According to an article published on TampaBayOnline.com, between construction, operating, etc., the project would have created 23,000 jobs. In Central Florida, the employment rate hovers around 20 percent — we'll take any jobs we can get.
Although profits and jobs are both great things, there are some major flaws in the plan we simply cannot ignore.
New York Times writer Michael Cooper wrote a detailed article exposing some shortcomings of what could have been the United States' first high-speed rail.
When most people ride trains, they do so for long-distance trips, but Orlando and Tampa are only 84 miles apart and because the train would have stops along the way, travel would only save about a half hour of the passenger's time.
When you consider the trouble of carrying luggage, making sure you arrive on time and all the other bothersome necessities associated with public transportation, the saved half hour hardly seems worth it.
Cooper also points out that once the passenger arrives in their intended city they'd be at an extreme disadvantage. Both Tampa and Orlando are large, major cities and getting around without a car is nearly impossible. It simply wouldn't make sense for someone to come to either one of these cities without a reliable, easily accessible mode of transportation.
As much as we'd like to see a high-speed rail in Florida, the plan needs some major revisions before it would be truly logical.
It seems as if the plan was rushed and the engineers went with a shorter-distance route so that it would take less time to create and thus be chosen to receive the funds from the Obama administration. We hope, however, that the plans can be revised to make the route longer and the destinations friendlier for travelers.
We must also mention that Florida elected officials didn't want this for their state; the mayors from Orlando, Tampa and Lakeland all banded together to write a letter earlier this month pleading the governor to reconsider his stance on the project.
They addressed all of Scott's concerns as to why he was so against the rail. In the end, Scott ignored the pleas of these mayors and several others and his ultimate actions did not coincide with the beliefs and needs of the people he governs.
All the plans and progress made thus far shouldn't be thrown out, but should be re-worked to correct their major flaws so that Florida can still reap the benefits of the high-speed rail.
The deadline to apply for the $2.4 billion is April 4, which means Florida — along with any other interested state — has time to work up plans to resubmit an application.
We sincerely hope that the plans can be salvaged in time to reapply for the federal funds because we think a high-speed rail in Florida is a great, job-beneficial idea, but not without some reworking.