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Debate Over High Speed Rail, Commuter Rail, Transit Funding in Florida Hits PBS Newshour

16 Apr 2010 4:03 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

This week, the popular PBS NewsHour came to Florida to do a story about Federal spending and the debate surrounding it.

Newshour correspondent Judy Woodruff had no trouble finding critics of high speed rail, commuter rail, transit, and intercity passenger rail eager to paint a picture of all passenger rail projects as mere government waste.

The critics' comments are entertaining, politically charged-- and, of course, misinformed. 

Here is an excerpt:

"TIM CURTIS, Tampa 9-12 Project: My position is that there is absolutely a role and a function for the federal government: interstate highways, provide for the common defense. There are those things that are clearly enumerated in the Constitution that everyone in this country ought to have to contribute to.

Beyond that, there shouldn't be any federal funding for -- and you can go right down the line.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Probably the hottest current debate in Tampa over government spending has to do with trains, two of them in fact, one high-speed, the other urban light-rail. Both of these projects have a price tag in the billions, so the argument is over cost and over whether government should be in the business of telling people how to get around.

Florida's plans for a high-speed rail system date back a quarter-century. The talk turned into reality this past January, when the Obama administration awarded the state $1.25 billion for an 84-mile line that would stretch from Tampa to Orlando, running along the median of Interstate 4.

Ed Braddy is executive director of the American Dream Coalition, a group that defends automobile use and homeownership. Braddy argues that rail projects come in, on average, 40 percent over-budget. He says, if that happens in Florida, it will be taxpayers who pick up the tab.

ED BRADDY, executive director, American Dream Coalition: If history is any guide -- and I hope policy-makers take it into consideration -- it's going to come in at a lot more expensive than that. And who is going to pay?

Why should a struggling middle-class family or a lower-middle-class family all the way up in the Panhandle pay for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando? Who benefits from that?"

To view, listen or read the interview, follow the following link: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/jan-june10/florida_04-14.html

--Jackson McQuigg

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