Gov. Rick Scott’s response to a legal challenge to his rejection of federal funds for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando is due today.
When he learned of the lawsuit, he said in a statement that the senators who brought it had shown clear “disrespect for taxpayers.”
One of the senators bringing the lawsuit, Republican Thad Altman of Melbourne, argued that the project makes good business sense. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has argued that support for rail projects, quite simply, “means jobs.”
Scott’s answer, according to the St. Petersburg Times, is that the project would create “short-term jobs” and long-term costs for the state.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos chimed in with a statement explaining why he would not be joining the suit brought by two of his colleagues: “For reasons I’ve previously explained, funding of the high rail project is not something we as a state and a country can afford.”
So what can we afford?
Scott has said he would rather invest in Florida’s ports, and the infrastructure necessary to turn Florida into a hub for moving freight between Latin America and the eastern United States. Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas wrestled with that argument recently:
Right now, as part of an expansion at the Port of Tampa, a connector road is being built to dump trucks directly onto Interstate 4 from the port. As cargo traffic increases at the port, I-4 is going to get a lot more congested.
“If you have high-speed rail, and move people onto rail system and get cars off road, that frees up space for trucks,” says Richard Wainio, director of the Tampa Port Authority. “One tends to support the other.”
So what is Scott and Haridopolos’s vision for how these projects ought to fit together?