Florida Governor Rick Scott Rejects Funding for Tampa-Orlando Intercity Rail Project

» Despite its capital costs being almost entirely covered by Washington and plenty of evidence that private investors want to move forward, project is off the tracks for now.

Just days after the White House revealed its ambitions for a $53 billion, six-year plan for an American high-speed rail network, the place where it was all supposed to begin now appears to be out of the running. Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) announced that he would refuse $2.4 billion in federal funds to build a rail line between Orlando and Tampa. The project’s construction would have required $280 million in state aid to be completed, but projections had indicated that the line would cover its own operating costs.

The Obama Administration has funded the project more than any other outside of California and hoped that the scheme, which would have opened in 2016 as the first line in a

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With More Federal Funding, Florida in Striking Distance of New High-Speed Line

» In sinking $800 million more into the Tampa-Orlando line, Obama Administration is making clear its interest in making this the nation’s model program for fast trains.

In terms of high-speed rail funding, the thinking of the current Department of Transportation is easy to understand: Of the dozens of projects proposed across the country, only one could offer true high-speed service and open before the end of President Obama’s second term, all within a relatively tight budget. That is Florida’s 84-mile Tampa-Orlando link, expected to be complete by 2015 at a cost of less than $3 billion. It is therefore no surprise that in the latest round of grants for fast train services, the project has been awarded enough money to virtually ensure its construction.

The DOT’s announcement, expected to be formalized on Thursday, will hand Florida $800 million of the $2.5 billion in total allocations

Continue reading With More Federal Funding, Florida in Striking Distance of New High-Speed Line »

Tampa Outlines Plan for Spending After Transit Tax Referendum

» Shorter airport line could be built exclusively with local funds, serving as a down-payment for a future demand of federal funds to pay for a corridor to University of South Florida.

Though Florida is late to join the light rail-bandwagon — none of its cities have yet developed modern networks — Tampa’s leadership is pushing to get the technology on the ground and running as quickly as possible. Promoting a vision for a major transit corridor, local leadership has succeeded in placing a referendum on a tax increase on this November’s ballot. If the proposal passes the voters’ muster, the city could have light rail in five years.

Tampa is hoping to begin construction on a short stretch of light rail to the airport with its own funds. It will ask the federal government to chip in later for a future project bringing the service to the northeast.

Politicians from Tampa

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The Politics of Mode Choice

» Choice of transportation mode for new transit capital projects is often just as much a reflection of politics as it is a statement of “objective” technological benefits.

Would it be an indictment of the political system to suggest that most political leaders making decisions about what kind of technology to use in new transit corridors simply don’t care about the relative merits of various transportation modes? If someone were to develop a definitive formula that established, once and for all, the most appropriate technology for any possible corridor, would it matter?

I raise these questions because when put it in the context of actual decision-making by politicians in the United States, the seemingly endless debate between proponents of rail and buses can sometimes appear downright irrelevant.

Bus rapid transit may provide the same capacity as light rail or light rail may be more effective in producing ridership increases or busways may be

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Tampa Bay Closer to Getting Light Rail

» Sales tax would have to be approved by voters next year.

Yesterday, Hillsborough County Commissioners advanced their efforts to build a light rail transit system for Florida’s Tampa Bay area, agreeing to consider whether to place a one cent sales tax on the ballot. If Commissioners vote as expected on December 2nd, county voters will choose in November 2010 whether to increase taxes on themselves. The revenue source, if approved, would pay for a new light rail line, though it would also support road and bus improvements.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is the area’s primary light rail proponent — she claims to be unwilling to accept anything other than that transport mode — though the system as currently envisioned would connect several places outside of the city to downtown. First on the list, ready by 2018, would be a line from the University of South Florida to

Continue reading Tampa Bay Closer to Getting Light Rail »

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  • by Yonah Freemark
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