Great Scott, HSR Dissed

Up until today, there was absolutely nothing I liked about Gov. Rick Scott. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I do like his baldness. It complements his sinister-looking stare, which I don’t much like, along with his scorched-earth attitude toward funding for public education.    
      But today (Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011) I’m feeling a little love for the cool and uncuddly Scott and his my-way-or-the-highway politics. 
      Why? Because he told the federal government to take its $2.4 billion for high-speed rail and hit the highway out of Florida. Yes, it’s a congested highway, but a rail line connecting Tampa with Orlando would have done zilch to relieve traffic. High-speed rail is a misuse of money, whether spent here or in California, the likely recipient of the loot Scott rejected. Let California throw away the money; it is way better at irresponsible government spending than Florida could ever hope to be.
      High-speed rail won’t relieve our nation’s highways or reduce car emissions. It’s only green in the amount of money that it would take to build and sustain it. 
      I guessed incorrectly that Scott, who voiced opposition to HSR during his campaign for governor, would cave to Washington and special interests and take the money (see my column in the February issue of Orlando magazine, “Fund Brains, Not Trains”). All Scott had to do was come up with $280 million out of a budget that is as rail thin as he is, or give a wink and a nod to Winter Park Congressman John Mica’s delusion that international rail consortiums would pony up the state’s share and cover any cost overruns if they could build and operate the HSR system.
      When Mica, chair of the House Transportation Committee, said the Tampa-Orlando line was shovel ready, what he really meant was he was ready to shovel a lot of bull to get it built.
      It took guts to do what Scott did today. Florida desperately needs jobs, and HSR would have created a lot of them. For a few years. But he saw through the smoke and mirrors rail advocates use to advance their pet projects. Supporters don’t talk about the long-term cost burdens of railand the vagaries of ridership. Just build the systems and everything will work out, they say.
      Thankfully, Scott didn’t drink their Kool-Aid.
      Now if he’d only realize that Central Florida’s SunRail commuter line is nothing more than a slower-moving version of high-speed rail, then I could really get to like him.
      Well, maybe not.