Florida Governor Scott’s Rejection of Stimulus Money For High Speed Rail
Let me begin by saying this is my opinion. It is based solely upon what I have read in the papers and on-line as well as TV reports that I have heard. The fact is that Governor Rick Scott has rejected over 2 billion dollars of Federal Government stimulus money that was offered to the state to create a high-speed rail system connecting the Tampa Bay area to Orlando. This seems extremely short-sighted to me. Most of the people I have discussed this with who are also against the project say that they don’t believe the rail system will benefit them. They cite their belief that neither parking nor mass transit will be available at the other end or in the very least it will be limited. I say that if we base the acceptance or rejection of this project on how it will affect us individually then we are looking at it all wrong. I say we look at what kind of impact it will have on everyone in the area and also the indirect impact it will have on each of us as individuals.
My stance is that it may be true that the rail will not directly benefit me. I may never have the opportunity to use the rail system. But, the indirect and long-term benefits I believe will be tremendous. Indirectly everyone in central Florida will benefit by the creation of jobs and business during the construction phase. It has been said that over 9,000 jobs will be created during construction. That in itself would be a tremendous boon to central Florida. Additionally, no one in their right mind could imagine this system being built without considering the need for parking or mass transit at either end. Surely, that will develop throughout the planning and construction. It has been estimated that ridership will be in the millions. Think of the tourists who have flown in to either Orlando or the Gulf Beaches. These people are generally here for a week or more at a time. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful spark to the economy of Central Florida to have those tourists spending money at each end of that rail line rather than being confined to one end or the other? And what about the future? I can imagine a future Florida with a north south high-speed rail connecting Miami Dade with Tallahassee intersecting in Orlando and possibly another connecting Pensacola and Jacksonville through Tallahassee. This would connect the major sections of the state via high-speed rail and make it possible for our state politicians to travel back and forth without having to use state airplanes (since the governor owns his own and has sold all the state planes.)
To me it would have made good sense to accept the money and go ahead with the project. I believe there is more to this story than meets the eye. I believe Governor Scott has decided to reject the money solely because it was “Obama Money.” Governor Scott has allowed his bias against the president and the democratic party, and, by the way, many in his own party who were in favor of accepting the stimulus money, to cloud his judgment in regard to what is best for Florida. I believe Governor Scott has made a dreadful mistake, a mistake that will negatively impact the economic growth of Florida, a mistake that will haunt us for many years to come.
I know of a town in central Kentucky that many years ago had the opportunity to have a major interstate highway come through. The townspeople said “no way in hell do we want that highway and all that traffic.” The interstate was diverted through other areas which have since grown beyond the dreams of the residents there. That small town that “avoided all the traffic” is basically now dying on the vine. They had an opportunity and they let it pass. I am afraid that is what will happen to central Florida.
Now that the stimulus package has been finally rejected and all the fighting is over, Governor Scott says he can proceed with what he has planned for Florida. Maybe he will be successful, I don’t know, time will only tell, but for now there will be no high-speed rail, there will be no jobs created, there will be no new business, tourists will be stuck at one end or the other unless they rent a car, and we will still have to make the drive down I 4 to get back and forth from Tampa to Orlando. What a waste. Congratulations to some other state who will surely accept the stimulus money intended for Florida, a state where broken Floridians will probably go in order to get work.