Florida Rejects Obama's Rail Project

Despite reassurances from U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood, Gov. Scott argues potential cost overruns for the 84-mile-long venture outweigh the benefits.

NEW YORK -- Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected plans for a high-speed train line between Orlando and Tampa on Wednesday, hindering President Barack Obama's goal to build a national high-speed rail network. Obama recently proposed hisover the next six years as a part of his goal to make high-speed rail accessible to 80% of Americans within 25 years. The project would focus on developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 mph, and it would work to connect existing rail lines to the new projects.

Scott argued that the venture would cost the state too much money. "The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits," Scott said in a statement on Wednesday.

Scott said cost overruns from the 84 mile-long line could cost Florida state taxpayers an extra $3 billion. He joined Republican governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin in turning down a portion of the national rail network project.

Scott also said that if the rail project failed, the state would be responsible for paying back the entire federal loan. "My background is in business, not politics," Scott said. "But you don't have to be an economics expert to understand that if you spend more money than you take in, your business will fail."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that he was "extremely disappointed" by Scott's decision on Wednesday, but that the money would most likely be redistributed to other states.

"We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses," LaHood said in a statement. "This project could have supported thousands of good-paying jobs for Floridians and helped grow Florida businesses, all while alleviating congestion on Florida's highways. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming demand for high speed rail in other states that are enthusiastic to receive Florida's funding and the economic benefits it can deliver."

Kathy Castor (D., Fla.) said that the governor's decision to reject the plans will keep Florida from adding thousands of jobs in "construction, engineering, architecture and most all areas of Florida's economy."

"Turning down these jobs and investment dollars does nothing to reduce the nation's deficit," Castor said. "Instead, the billions of investment dollars and thousands of jobs will simply go to other states -- states whose governors understand the jobs and economic benefits that are at stake."

Scott's decision was also criticized by politicians from the Republican Party who support Obama's project. "I am deeply disappointed," Republican Congressman John Mica said. "This is a huge setback for the state of Florida, our transportation, economic development, and important tourism industry."

Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.