Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Florida High Speed Rail

By David Terry

This is a copy of an e-mail I sent today to Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Daniel Webster, State Senator Andy Gardiner and State Representative Steve Precourt in support of Florida Governor Rick Scott's position on High Speed Rail.
The issue of mass transit has been floating around Central Florida for many years. For some strange reason there has been continued support by elected officials to spend money even though I have seen no clear indication from the people of Central Florida that they will actually ride this transportation. Having lived in Central Florida for 15 years I have had many conversations with local residents from Tampa to Deland and many of these people state that they think rail projects would be a great idea. When you ask them if they would ride the trains the answer changes completely. They certainly advocate the trains for others to ride but I have yet to find a resident who says they would ride the train themselves. I currently work with several people who travel the I-4 corridor every day from as far as Brandon to the Sand Lake/John Young Parkway area of Orlando and they all are very specific in the fact that they wouldn't ride the train to work. These seem to be the perfect people for this project to serve yet they have no interest in riding now or in the future. I personally used to make the I-4 commute from Longwood to Celebration five days a week and I can guarantee I would never have chosen to ride the train.
More important than this is the fact that the voters statewide and in several county specific referendums have spoken clearly through their votes that they aren't interested in funding any more transportation projects. Governor Scott was clear during his campaign that he opposed the high speed rail concept and yet he won over a candidate who was an ardent supporter. In Hillsborough and Polk counties the voters rejected tax increase referendums that would have expanded their current service to meet the high speed rail with over 60% of the vote. This is an overwhelming majority of the vote against more spending to increase transportation services. It should also seem strange that the coalition to pass the tax in Hillsborough, "Moving Hillsborough Forward", was not supported by the taxpayer but was primarily a business backed group.
The voters of Florida have clearly spoken on this issue.  As elected officials you are in office to represent the wills of the people, not the wills of big business like Walt Disney World that will benefit from a station built on their property. Based on the locations of the proposed stations at WDW, Orange County Convention Center and the Orlando International Airport, this project is clearly designed to be another tourist based project that brings no real good to the people of Central Florida other than more tourists and lower wage jobs working in the tourism sector. Even the construction jobs created by this project are temporary, paid for by borrowing money from China to further mortgage our children's future.
If high speed rail were truly an economically viable method of transportation private companies would be clamoring for the right to build the trains and pay the entire cost of completing the project. At this point the only reason companies are willing to build it is because the federal government is mortgaging future generations by borrowing 43% of total spending to pay for crazy projects like this that no resident will ride. It's time to start considering the needs and desires of Florida's residents and not the tourists and amusement parks that are more than willing to let the government borrow billions from China to increase their bottom line.
I firmly believe that Governor Scott has done the right thing for Floridians and our future and as my elected representative I hope you will support him in this decision.

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