The Obama Administration launched a high-speed rail system in the United States, in order to change the preferred way of travel. This would improve carbon emissions, create jobs, spark a new and healthy competition within the U.S. economy, and help reduce the dependence on oil from foreign countries. President Obama put $8 billion , for the high-speed railway, in the 2010 stimulus bill. The government was to provide grants for 31 states while creating a network of 13 high-speed lines. The new plan seems to be more about improving old, out-dated rails than constructing new ones. Early on, there have been issues and concerns among these states resulting in the refusal of government funds in most cases.
Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin are all rejecting high-speed rail funding which will cause taxpayers to have to foot the bill. These states decided to refuse federal funds that were meant to cover the millions of dollars that were already invested in the project.
Florida has refused $2.4 billion in grants. Governor Rick Scott was opposed to this proposal from the start. The new railway had been planned to run between Tampa and Orlando. Most democrats condemned Scott’s actions of refusing the money. Senator Bill Nelson and Representative John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee, are trying to find a way to make it happen. Governor Scott doubted that the early estimates of projected paying customers were correct. That would mean great financial loses every year. Scott was leery because the Jacksonville Skyway already loses $5 million a year.
The great state of Ohio was to receive $400 million for the new railway system but Governor John Kasich would rather not. His offices believed it would be more of a burden than relief by generating only $12 million in sales yet costing $29 million to operate. Of course, the burden would fall on the Ohio taxpayers.
Wisconsin has a similar case. The state was slotted to receive $810 million in federal cash to create the new rail system. Governor Scott Walker had his people crunch the numbers and concluded that it would create more debt for the state than it was worth. He feels that the money would be better spent fixing old highways and bridges rather than creating a high-speed railway. After rejecting the funds for the high-speed line, Walker is asking for $150 million to improve the current train lines within the state.
Now it is North Carolina’s turn to figure out if they are going forward with the project or refusing the funds. It seems as though the Tarheel state is going to return it’s $545 million share of government funds. The legislative branch wanted to put funds, that were already accepted, into a general fund and use the money at their discretion. However, they were quickly informed that the money was to be used for the rail system only or returned to the government. This case is somewhat different than the other states because Governor Beverly Perdue supports it.
Although the good will is there, many states have turned down the creation of jobs by not approving the construction of a high-speed railway. They have cited future expenses as a major concern when compared to profit. If the funds are not used by the state for the railway then, they must forfeit the money back to the federal government. There was a lot of hype and energy surrounding this better mode of transportation at the start. The whole project was likened to that of the interstate highway projects of the Eisenhower era. Just how many more states will decline on this offer remains to be seen.
Larry Hannan, “Rick Scott refuses federal funds for high-speed railway,” The Florida Times-Union
Michael Grunwald, “Can High-Speed Rail Get on Track?,” Time