BRADENTON -- U.S. transportation Secretary Ray Lahood has given Florida Governor Rick Scott
another week to reconsider the $2.4 billion in federal funds for a Tampa-Orlando Bullet train
. The U.S. Department of Transportation spent most of the week providing Scott with assurances that the state would face no liability for potential cost overruns, which would be assumed by the private sector, but Scott remained unconvinced.
Meanwhile, supporters of the plan have been working feverishly to try and put in place an end-around to allow for a coalition of local governments that might accept the funding and oversee the project, though they would still need the state to grant access to right of ways it purchased for the rail line.
The issue has divided Tallahassee, where several Republican lawmakers have voiced concerns and Democrats have steadfastly criticized the governor's decidion. It has even been asked whether the governor may have overstepped his bounds constitutionally in failing to accept the funds when legislation had already been passed approving the project, which has inspired mixed public response.
Critics of the plan say it is a massive waste of funds that doesn't produce enough jobs, while pointing out the long criticized usefulness of the route, which is estimated to take as long or longer than an equivalent car ride because of stops, at an estimated cost of $30 per ticket, and without efficient public transportation in place in either city upon arrival.
Supporters say that it is an important first step in a necessary phase of our long range transportation plan and will ultimately help create a bigger and more useful system. It has also been argued that the money has already been approved and will be spent elsewhere if Florida returns it, causing our state to lose out on 20 - 30,000 sorely needed jobs that will end up elsewhere.