Friday, July 01, 2011

Horrible SunRail Project Approved

Florida state Sen. Paula Dockery comes out against Gov. Rick Scott's decision to move SunRail forward.

“This morning, Governor Scott had his Secretary of Transportation announce that he will betray the trust of the conservative electorate who put him in office by moving forward with the least cost-efficient commuter rail project in the nation. This decision has completed the governor’s transformation from businessman to political insider. When the SunRail/CSX commuter project is viewed from a purely business vantage point, the project falls so far below what a savvy business owner would accept that it is somewhat baffling. It is unclear if when making the decision the governor had a change of heart, if he simply succumbed to the desires of the big money special interests, or if he has a severe case of amnesia and thought that he was supposed to be representing CSX instead of Florida’s taxpayers. Governor Scott’s general counsel, a former CSX executive, admitted to giving blatantly false financial facts regarding High Speed Rail in front of the Florida Supreme Court. For that reason, it is overwhelmingly disappointing but not altogether surprising that the facts about SunRail, a sacred cow of special interests, would be ignored and the decision would be based upon arguments put forward by highly paid public relations consultants, using Floridians tax dollars. The facts are as follows: nationwide, this is the lowest rated project for cost-effectiveness by the federal government, low ridership estimates, excessive liability is transferred from a for-profit corporation onto all Florida citizens, and it is a blank check waiting to be written by the taxpayers for any and all cost-overruns and operating subsidies. While ‘warnings’ were given to the local governments during Tuesday’s dog and pony show, this fact remains: the agreement between the federal government and the State of Florida clearly places the financial responsibility for all but $300 million of a $2.6 billion project squarely on the backs of Florida taxpayers.”

Dockery is correct. SunRail is rated the least cost effective rail project. I wrote that I had problem with the fact that Florida pays CSX for the tracks. CSX is also off the hook for any liability, if CSX is responsible for faulty upkeep of the tracks.

I noted the Sen. J.D. Alexander pushed for SunRail because he stood to financially gain.

The blog Stop CSX in Polk County broke the story that Alexander's was purchasing Phoenix Industries. Alexander owns Altantic Blue. The company bought Phoenix Industries, a frozen food vender that does business with CSX. The transporation bill would have placed CSX's new hub near Alexander's warehouse. One needs a scorecard to track Alexander's conflicts of interest.

Below is a cost comparison between SunRail and high speed rail. The maximum cost of the federally funded high speed rail project for Florida would be $280 million. The maximum cost of the SunRail project would cost Florida taxpayers $901 million. The counties that would have been involved with the high speed rail project would have zero tax obligation. Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties would have to pay $526 million. Scott's idea of fiscal conservatism is turning down federal money and making Floridians pay for a rail project few people wanted.

23,000 would have been created from the high speed rail project. Only 8,000 jobs would have been created from SunRail. There are no private investors involved with SunRail. The high speed rail project has secured $400 million. Scott hates President Obama so much that he took the better deal. It also puts the rest the bogus claim that Scott has a brilliant business mind. No smart business man would take SunRail over the high speed rail project. It makes no fiscal sense.

High Speed Rail v. SunRail

Update: A very big reason SunRail was approved by Scott. Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson approves of the project.

“SunRail is a smart infrastructure investment. This is another example of Gov. Scott and the legislature putting Florida’s long-term goals ahead of the short-term interests of a few.”

Scott gives a reason for approving SunRail that I don't buy.

Scott said his lawyers told him there was a “significant risk” he would have lost a similar court challenge had he tried to block the commuter project.

Scott's Florida Supreme Court victory set a (very bad) legal precedent. Scott was given legal authority to ignore legislation approved by his predecessor Charlie Crist. Scott claims that the legal ramifications of high speed rail and SunRail are totally different. Scott fails to cite how that is so. I call bullshit on Scott's legal claim.

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