Florida’s Supreme Court on Friday dealt a serious blow to President Obama’s $53 billion high-speed rail pet project. The seven jurists sided unanimously with Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s right to forgo $2.4 billion in federal taxpayer-backed grants the Obama administration wanted to blow on an 84-mile train track linking Tampa and Orlando. More and more, Republican governors are rejecting this type of federal bribe in the name of fiscal responsibility.
That’s the right move considering the “high-speed” promises don’t hold up to scrutiny. Although the Florida trains were to have been capable of hitting 168 mph, project documents show the average nonstop speed would actually be 100 mph. That figure doesn’t reflect the actual average, which would be much lower after taking into account the need to grind to a halt at each of the five stations along the proposed route. Driving would’ve been cheaper and faster for most travelers.
That’s why projections of 2.4 million riders and $40-46 million in annual revenue were mostly fantasy. Yet even taken at face value, a 2002 pro-rail analysis by the Florida Transportation Association estimated operating costs, adjusted to 2010 dollars, would have put the program $10 million in the red each year. Mr. Scott didn’t want to saddle Sunshine State taxpayers with these bills. Instead, he thought money would be more wisely spent widening I-95, I-4 and I-275.