Sen. Nelson says he's disappointed in Gov. Scott's rail reluctance

01/11/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Florida governor Rick Scott has said he’s not sold on the idea of high-speed rail because it would be funded largely by federal stimulus dollars. Today in Tampa US Senator Bill Nelson said he’s already talked with Scott about the project.

"Here we have a situation where 90 percent of the funds, $2.4 billion are already committed. The state of Florida's share is only $300 million, which is about 10 percent of the whole project. We need your support because this is just the first leg of a system that ultimately will span the entire state of Florida as we project decades into the future."

Nelson said he’s disappointed in the governor’s apparent lack of enthusiasm on the issue, not to mention that of other GOP officials.

"Well I'm sad to say that some of the comments that I've read since I discussed that with him is that he's not convinced. I was quite disturbed the other day. My dear personal friend, John Mica, Congressman from Orlando whose passion is commuter rail in and around the Orlando area which now is a fact and it's being implemented, for him to say 'well maybe the state of Florida shouldn't do this, it ought to be just private industry'. If it's private industry, fine if that's what the state of Florida does but don't come, please governor, don't come to the conclusion that you're going to turn your back on high-speed rail and for us to lose this opportunity."

The senator said all one needs to do is hop on I-4 during rush hour to see that widening the highway every once in a while isn’t the answer.

"We're projecting 10, 20, and 30 years in the future. Indeed, you can't build enough lanes on I-4 to take care of the projected traffic and all you need to do is to go out there right now at rush hour and see what I mean. There is no parallel roadway that you could improve to shift the traffic so we've got to go to a new mode of transportation."

Like many newly-elected Republicans, Governor Scott has said voters elected him with a mandate of limiting regulation and reducing government spending. But Senator Nelson said he doesn’t see it that way.

"The people of Florida have mandated they want their elected officials to use common sense. Common sense would tell us that over the next two or three decades that we cannot build enough lanes on Interstate 4 in order to handle the traffic. You have to go to alternative means of transportation."

Governor Scott has said he wants to see the facts before he signs off on the project, which was originally slated for completion in 2015.

Previous WMNF coverage of high-speed rail

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