U.S. Secretary of Transportation Focusing on High-Speed Rail in Florida

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With Wisconsin and Ohio forfeiting their high-speed rail funding and Florida getting awarded a decent amount more ($342.3 million) for its proposed high-speed rail network, you would think all is going smoothly with regards to this matter in the highly-congested Sunshine State.

However, in addition to John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, incoming Florida Governor Rick Scott is the other newly-elected Republican who has had a hard time identifying the clear economic benefits of one of the world’s key transportation options of the future (and of the present in many countries, like China).

Scott’s High-Speed Rail Hesitations

“Regrettably, Mr. Scott’s sending signals that to him, politics may well be more important than doing what’s clearly in the best interests of Florida. How unfortunate for the state, which needs the stimulative, potentially transformative high-speed line,” the Orlando Sentinel reports. “And how ironic for someone who cast himself as a political outsider in his run for governor.”

Secretary LaHood Drops Florida a Note

Basically, in response to Scott’s hesitations, U.S. secretary of transportation Ray LaHood wrote a guest article on high-speed rail in the Orlando Sentinel last week. [Correction via Olivia Alair, Press Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation: “Secretary LaHood wrote the oped in the Orlando Sentinel because Florida is poised to benefit from one of the first major high-speed rail corridors in the U.S.,” not in response to Scott’s hesitations.]

LaHood makes it clear as day why a large and connected high-speed network is important for the U.S. Throughout the piece, he compares a national high-speed rail network to the interstate highway system. You would think everyone could come to the easy realization that the interstate required considerable initial investment but was worth that investment in the long term and that a potential national high-speed rail network is in the same position today. Of course, leaving Kasich, Walker (and, perhaps, Scott) aside, many state leaders get this.

Since the president proposed his vision for high-speed rail last year, enthusiasm around the country has been overwhelming,” LaHood writes. “To date, states have submitted applications for $64 billion — more than six times the amount of money available.”

Here’s a little more from LaHood on why it’s important for the U.S. to invest in high-speed rail:

For years, we have watched other countries pass us by as they build faster trains. Indeed, the benefits of high-speed rail are tough to ignore. It will seamlessly integrate large metropolitan communities and economies through a safe, convenient and reliable transportation alternative. It will ease congestion on our roads and at our airports. It will reduce our reliance on oil as well as our carbon emissions. And it will provide a much-needed boost to America’s hard-hit manufacturing sector during a time of economic struggle….

last fall, 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers committed to employing American workers and locating or expanding their base of operations in the U.S. if selected for high-speed-rail contracts. And the administration’s 100 percent Buy America requirement is sure to generate a powerful ripple effect as manufacturers buy supplies and as workers earn and spend their paychecks….

By staying on track with President Obama’s vision, modern, high-speed passenger service could connect 80 percent of Americans and restore the United States’ economic competitiveness….

Like our parents and grandparents, we, too, must exercise the foresight and courage to invest in the most important infrastructure projects of our time. If we work together, a national high-speed-rail network can and will be our generation’s legacy.

Check out LaHood’s full piece here: High-speed-rail will be our generation’s legacy

Photo Credit: WSDOT

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Zachary Shahan

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