Study claims Florida high-speed rail would be a money-maker

As the battles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and now the disasters in Japan, have dominated the news over the last month, you may have missed Florida Governor Rick Scott’s rejection of federal funds to build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Scott turned away the $2.4 billion for the project because he was concerned about cost overruns that Florida taxpayers may have had to cover. According to a new study by the Florida Department of Transportation, though, the governor’s fears are not only unfounded, but represent a missed opportunity to create some economic growth in the Sunshine State.

Conducted by transportation consulting firms Wilbur Smith Associates and Steer Davies Gleave, the new study argued

  • the high-speed line between Orlando and Tampa would serve 3.3 million riders a year,
  • it would’ve had a $10.2 operating surplus in 2015, its first year of operation, and
  • by its tenth year, that surplus would’ve grown to $28.6 million.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Of course, there are multiple studies out there on the topic, and they don’t all necessarily come to the same conclusion. It’s hard to believe, though, that such a project wouldn’t end up financially successful: even a 2009 study with less robust conclusions still showed a surplus by 2021.

There’s no doubt that high-speed rail produces environmental benefits… and strikes me as much more preferable to sitting in traffic.  And these numbers certainly make a strong case for such projects as good investments of taxpayer dollars.

Think Governor Scott’s making a short-sighted move? Or, are there other economic elements to consider here? Let us know what you think…

via the Sierra Club Compass


Image: a high-speed train in Portugal Credit: bridgepix at Flickr under a Creative Commons license