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Rail-Wary FL Gov. Scott Threw Caution to the Wind in Supporting SunRail

On Monday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will travel to Orlando for the ground-breaking of the SunRail commuter rail project in central Florida. We reported with some pleasure two weeks ago that Gov. Rick Scott had approved the project. But what we didn’t mention was that there’s significant opposition to the project, and it’s not all from the usual suspects of Tea Partiers and deficit hawks and transit haters.

Many rail supporters say Scott should have approved high-speed rail and killed SunRail, not the other way around. “Governor Scott used all the right arguments to green light the wrong rail project,” said Florida Senate Democratic Leader Pro Tem Arthenia Joyner. “His support had nothing to do with good policy, good logic, or the good of Floridians.”

“Inconsistency, thy name is Rick,” editorialized The Ledger. The Lakeland-area paper speculates that the decision was a raw political calculation designed to broaden his base of support — a strategy that appears to have backfired.

The project is among the least cost-effective that the federal government have approved recently, costing an estimated $24,000 per rider, according to the Transport Politic. Daily ridership estimates all the way out to 2030 are only 7,400.

Many deride the project as corporate welfare for the freight company CSX, whose profits grew by 35 percentlast year. Of the $1.2 billion total cost of the SunRail line, $432 million will go directly to CSX. The money will pay for the purchase of the track that the commuter trains will run on, but also for many unrelated CSX projects, like track improvements, overpasses and transfer stations on completely separate lines that have nothing to do with SunRail.

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