Tuesday, February 22, 2011

War on Transit

I’ve been noticing that in the US there seems to be a war on transit in some states. For example in Florida, Governor Rick Scott recently rejected $2.4 billion in high speed passenger rail funding much to the shock of people at the local level considering the federal government was going to pick up 90% of the cost.
Officials across Central Florida are drafting proposals to privatize high-speed rail and hope to submit a plan to Gov. Rick Scott for approval within a day or two. The proposal is urgent because Scott, citing concerns over the impact on taxpayers, has rejected $2.4 billion in federal funding for the rail project from Tampa to Orlando, with an extension ultimately to Miami.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin have also turned down essentially free money to build transit which is crazy. Walker is taking it one step further and is looking to slash funding from all transit agencies in his state.
Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and other mid-sized Wisconsin cities would have to restructure their transit systems or lose some $45 million in federal aid under a bill quickly moving through the state Legislature, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau warns.
Once that's done, he and his friends plan on killing even more commuter rail.
Once the Republicans can reconvene to pass Scott Walker’s budget repair bill — the subject of massive protests this week and a Democratic Senator walkout — they will move on to other matters, including killing the proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail line.
Again this completely shocks most local and business leaders. Of course it’s not all doom and gloom, our neighbours in Washington State are benefiting from the short-shortsightedness of other states.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday reiterated that if other states don't want federal dollars for passenger rail, Washington would be glad to take them.

"I've said many times, if other states don't want this funding, Washington state is ready to put it to work. We've been committed to expanding and improving high-speed passenger rail not just to increase convenience for passengers, but to promote Washington state as a great place to visit and live. These rail lines take cars off our roads while moving workers and tourists between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C. These federal funds are an investment in our economy, and support hundreds of construction and operating jobs in our state."

This happened before. After Wisconsin and Ohio spurned high-speed rail grants worth $1.2 billion, Washington state's Amtrak Cascades corridor reaped a $162 million share of the unused funds, on top of $590 million in earlier stimulus aid.

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