Another state has spurned federal dollars to establish high-speed rail.
…Florida Governor Rick Scott announced he will decline $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funding — putting a quick and unexpected end to the projected Tampa-Orlando line that was to be the Obama administration’s bullet model for the rest of the nation. Scott now becomes the fourth Republican governor in the past several months to scuttle a major rail project, following in the (backward-moving) footsteps of New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and Ohio’s John Kasich.
The article goes on to address Scott’s stated concerns. Of course he touts supposedly “better” ways to use the money — by expanding existing interstate highways. Furthering our dependence on automobiles and, by extension, foreign oil is a conservative value, apparently.
Only it’s not. Even the American Conservative magazine recognizes the red herring of concerns over government subsidies: “Still, libertarians [and Republicans] shriek, ‘Subsidies!’—ignoring the fact that highways only cover 58 percent of their costs from user fees, including the gas tax.” Others have noted:
Both our highway system and airline industry are heavily subsidized. In 2002, Congress appropriated $32 billion in highway funding and $14 billion for the airline industry in 2002. The FAA ran on a 2005 budget of $7.8 billion. How “successful” would the private airline industry be if it were not subsidized by the government? Would our “car culture” exist without our governments involvement in building and maintaining highways?
These Republican governors are impeding efficient and prudent national transportation improvements to the detriment of their own states. Their reasoning doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and is leading some people to question whether this isn’t simply political posturing against a Democratic president. I won’t presume to judge whether they have such ulterior motives. But I will say that these governors are short-sighted and doing their constituents a disservice.
New and improved rail transportation, besides creating jobs and spurring economic development, alleviates highway congestion, lessens our dependence on oil, and has a positive impact on the environment. As far as transportation strategy goes, Republicans appear to be stuck in the 1950s.