Your money and high-speed rail

Remember all of the hoopla earlier this year when President Obama gave your money away to various states to build high speed trains?  Well, sanity has prevailed, at least in two states.  Last week, the newly elected Republican governors of Ohio and Wisconsin said no thank you to $1.2 billion, and “returned” it to the federal government.

Given the size of our deficit, one would have thought that the money would have remained in the government’s coffers, but, no.  The money was “redistributed” to other states who had already received money to build high-speed rails, and, “lucky” for us in Florida, we will now receive all but 10% of the funds necessary to build our high-speed rail from Orlando to Tampa.

I did a post earlier this year on Obama’s “gift” to Florida, but in the interim, two things have happened.  In November, the voters in Tampa rejected a one cent increase in the sales tax that was to be used to pay for the infrastructure to get from the “Tampa” station to, well, anyplace actually in Tampa.  And second, Florida’s Republican governor elect, Rick Scott, has said he first wants a feasibility study to determine whether the project can provide a “return to taxpayers”.   Imagine that…an elected official who is concerned about the decades of taxpayer subsidies that will be necessary to keep this boondoggle afloat if it is built. 

And, Mr. Scott has reason to be concerned.

The problem is that high-speed rail systems almost always run over budget and end up heavily subsidized.  Only two segments of two such railways in the world, in France and Japan, have broken even, and they are in high-density areas…[emphasis supplied]

But, these facts haven’t deterred the fiscally sound State of California, also a recipient of federal high-speed rail funds.  Their high-speed rail authority recently approved construction of that state’s first venture into high-speed rail…the 65 mile stretch between the booming cities of Borden and Corcoran, at an estimated cost of $4.15 billion.  So, not only will your federal tax dollars pay for this nonsense, but, when California goes bankrupt, as it most assuredly will, your federal tax dollars will pay to keep it running.

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The Sound Off Sister was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and special trial attorney for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division; a partner in the Florida law firm of Shutts & Bowen, and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, School of Law. The Sound Off Sister offers frequent commentary concerning legislation making its way through Congress, including the health reform legislation passed in early 2010.


  1. Plainvillian on December 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    What you really need in Florida is high speed rail from Palatka to Apopka.  Think of the highway congestion that would relieve.


    Here in Corrupticut we need high speed rail from Storrs to New Haven.  Then all the leftist academics could ride subsidized transport from one campus to the other in order to bash America.  It could be the Chris Dodd Memorial line with a two faced clown logo.


    High speed rail has been the wet dream of the left for decades.  Wasteful, useless, unpopular, unaffordable – just like today's Democrats.

  2. SoundOffSister on December 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I just "did the math".  It looks like you folks (well, me, too) will be spending $63 million per mile for California's "bullet train" to nowhere.  As long as the government seems compelled to spend, wouldn't that money be better spent feeding the hungry, or housing the homeless, or providing medical care for those who can't afford medical care? 

    Or, did I miss something?

  3. GdavidH on December 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    SOS, you silly. The Gov't already has the bureaucracy to spend money on those causes. what we need is high speed boondog….I mean railways.

    Just because the money could be better spent elsewhere, that should never deter them from spending it where they want.

    Efficiency doesn't grow gov't. Get with the program!!

  4. PatRiot on December 12, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Perhaps the SOS can verify this.  Is it true that a statewide referendum resulted in the majority of voters said NAY to the high spped rail.  Only to have the legislature IGNORE them and push the plan ahead any way?

  5. JohnK on December 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    There are perfectly good reasons to upgrade our rail system, for freight!  Major railroads are upgrading to add capacity.  In some cases, the goverment is a willing partner.  This is a win all the way around.  Less truck traffic reduces fuel use, traffic and pollution.  The railroads make more money and pay more taxes.

    High speed rail only works were there is demand.  I do not see that developing any time soon in any of the proposed corridors

  6. Lynn on December 13, 2010 at 3:25 am

    Unfortunately, this is about wasteful spending and I want that stopped. But my pea brain keeps thinking of other spending. I always thought we could utilize our rivers more for freight. It is far less expensive than building track etc. Also keeps traffic down, don't know about fuel or pollution. There are still tugs and barges around and lots are owned by private companies, it could be a far better way for stimulating economy because they won't need to be subsidized. But back to the subject high speed rail always needs to be BIG time subsidized.

  7. Dimsdale on December 13, 2010 at 5:05 am

    The only people getting "taken" anywhere at high speed is the taxpayer.


    If they want it done right, give it to the private sector.

  8. pjay on December 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    First – hooray for John Kasich (who we've followed for years!) and the gov of WI!! Secondly, I remember SOS's first post on the FL rail.  What a joke.  More efforts to "control" everything that we do by making everything we do dependent, in some shape or form, on the government!

  9. pauldow on December 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Connecticut's own so-called high speed rail seems to be off the radar screen, but I'm sure that 1/2 billion for the HVN-SPG line will start coming up soon. Now, I think passenger rail travel could make sense for trips under 500 miles to replace, or supplement, air travel. Where would we be if the Metro-North line had never been built? I'd like to see trains get up to the speed they ran in the 1930's. I can't figure out how any high speed travel will take place on that 63 mile run with 7 stops (8 if Enfield gets one) and all the grade crossings. I've taken a couple trips from Chicago back here this year, and I think it's a great way to travel. One thing I can't figure out is why there wasn't any criticism of the $103 million West Haven train station. That's an incredible amount of money for just a train station. Sheez, Rentschler Field "only" cost $91.3 million. There's only 20 more days that M. Jodi  can sign for more bonding. Then our long nightmare will be over. Then, a new one can start.

  10. winnie888 on December 13, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Borden and Corcoran?  What? This is just going to be one more failed government experiment funded by taxpayers.  As long as I have a choice, I probably won't choose to buy expensive tickets for high speed rail travel.  BUT if the government forces me to buy tickets (with the threat of a penalty/tax/penalty) and be subject to an invasive pat-down procedure to keep the dream alive, I guess I won't have a choice.

  11. sammy22 on December 14, 2010 at 2:10 am

    We have no problem subsidizing air travel and highway travel, but we squawk mightily at the notion of subsidizing rail travel. Dims says: let the private sector do it. We tried that for many decades and the private sector destroyed the rail system!

  12. winnie888 on December 14, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Doesn't the U.S. government own all of Amtrak's preferred stock?  And wasn't Amtrak created by congress & Nixon?

  13. sammy22 on December 15, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Perhaps, winnie888, you are too young to remember the New York Central RR, the Pennsylvania RR, the New Haven and Hartford RR and a host of others that folded. Then…. came Amtrak.

  14. Dimsdale on December 15, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Sammy: the private sector built the railroads on which this country was built.  The only reason rail travel got scuttled was due to the convenience of automobiles, and the speed of cross country air travel.  They did it once, they can do it again.

  15. sammy22 on December 15, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Anything is possible, Dims. W/o incentives I'd say it's a tough road. I venture to say that even w/ gas at $3/gal, US travelers/commuters prefer to spend countless hours in traffic jams on the roads, not to mention the "pleasure" of air travel!

  16. Dimsdale on December 15, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I like trains, coming from a family with some history in the railroad business.  The only incentive one needs is a buying public.  Maybe the TSA patdowns will help!

  17. winnie888 on December 16, 2010 at 3:05 am

    I guess I am too young…bummer.

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