State Sen. and high-speed rail supporter Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, wrote a letter to the Palm Beach Post knocking down three of the arguments raised by opponents of the project:
- “Capital cost overruns could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion.
- “Ridership and revenue projections are historically overly optimistic, and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur, which could cost from $300 million to $575 million over 10 years.
- “If the project became too costly for taxpayers and was shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds.”
In fact, Dockery writes, the Florida Department of Transportation was working on a deal in which the private sector would bear those risks.
Department representatives told the state Senate transportation panel in January that private companies saw the project as a “loss-leader” — they were willing to pony up money for a project that didn’t reap enormous profits in order to have a chance to prove high-speed rail can work in the United States. Whether the companies would actually cover all of the risks above remained to be seen.
Gov. Rick Scott has said that state money would be at risk and that he will maintain his opposition to the project as long as that’s the case. Tomorrow is the deadline for him to change his mind. Apparently, there’s no chance of that happening, according to a source for The Buzz.