Volume 1 Number 11
March 15, 2004









 

 

 

 

 


GALLAGHER JOINS KEY LEGISLATORS TO DERAIL BULLET TRAIN

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today joined forces with key legislative leaders to derail the bullet train, including House Speaker Designate Allen Bense, Senate Democratic Leader Ron Klein, and Representative Bob Allen. Representatives Dennis Baxley, Fred Brummer, Carl Domino, Andy Gardiner, Gayle Harrell, Ron Reagan, and David Rivera, and Senators Charlie Clary and Rudy Garcia also threw their support behind the effort. State Department of Transportation Secretary Jose Abreu was also present.

Last week, CFO Gallagher teamed up with Governor Bush to support both a legislative and grassroots effort to give Floridians the opportunity to repeal a high-speed rail.  Over the next 51 days, Bush, Gallagher and state lawmakers will pursue passage of a joint legislative resolution to place a constitutional amendment on the 2004 ballot repealing the high-speed rail initiative. Lawmakers need a three-fifths supermajority to place the amendment on the ballot.
 

“I applaud the leadership of lawmakers standing with me today who are also gravely concerned with the multi-billion dollar price tag associated with building a high-speed rail - a cost that will fall directly in the laps of Florida taxpayers,” said CFO Gallagher.  “In the face of mounting evidence, diverting billions of taxpayer dollars to implement a high-speed rail is simply unconscionable.”

“People aren't having trouble getting from Miami to Orlando.  They are having trouble with traffic congestion while they are in Miami and while they are in Orlando,” said Sen. Klein. “These funds should be focused on regional transportation solutions that we need to improve the day-to-day lives of our residents.”

“Florida taxpayers were sold a false bill of goods,” said Rep. Allen, who is sponsoring the joint resolution.  “We were all told about this utopian transportation system, but never of its cost.”

“I have serious concerns that taxpayers are being asked to pay for a project that should be largely funded by the private sector,” said Rep. Bense.   

A report issued by the Florida High Speed Rail Authority in January 2002 estimated that the cost to build the first 80-mile rail segment between Tampa and Orlando would be between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion.  In January of this year, the Authority reported that the costs have more than doubled to an estimated $2.6 billion.  

In November 2002, the High Speed Rail Authority conducted a ridership study and subsequently commissioned a Peer Review Panel to perform an independent assessment of the study. Upon conclusion of its assessment, the panel did not endorse the ridership study citing questionable ridership projections, negligible time savings for travelers and lack of flexibility in transportation once arriving at the station.

“The lack of endorsement by the Peer Review Panel raises serious doubts that the state can secure financing from the investment community backed solely by ridership revenue,” said Rep. Gardiner, who chairs the Transportation Systems Subcommittee.  “Without a sound investment grade report, the state will have no choice but to back financing of the project with state funding.”

According to the High Speed Rail Authority, with no guarantee of federal funding and a lack of funding from the private sector, Florida taxpayers are facing at least a $140 million price tag annually for the next 30 years just to build the first rail segment.

“Implementing a project of this magnitude will come at a great cost to Florida taxpayers and could negatively impact the current and ongoing transportation needs of our state,” said Sen. Garcia. “There is simply not enough room in the state’s transportation budget to implement both a high-speed rail and long-standing and critical transportation projects.”

“Building just the first phase means that Floridians will do without highway and roadway improvements such as those planned for the Palmetto Expressway in Miami, I-75 in Lee County, US 19 in Pinellas County, SR 520 in Orlando, I-95 in Brevard County, Butler Boulevard in Jacksonville, and US 331 in Walton County,” said Secretary Abreu.  “These are transportation projects with known benefits. High-speed rail is an unknown.”  

Other sample projects in the state department of Transportation’s Five-Year Work Program that would be in jeopardy if high-speed rail is implemented are attached.

            “High-speed rail would focus our transportation funding on a losing proposition,” said Rep. Reagan, who recently learned from the California High Speed Rail Authority that their state’s rail project is now running 50 percent higher than the original bid price.  “Florida cannot afford to misuse any of our transportation dollars.”

            Absent any action by the Legislature, CFO Gallagher will push for a citizen petition drive to collect more than 489,000 signatures to get an amendment to repeal the rail on the November ballot. To accomplish this, Gallagher is chairing the Derail the Bullet Train (DEBT) Committee - a committee formed to educate Floridians on the escalating costs and financial ramifications of building a high-speed rail with taxpayer dollars. 

In response to inquiries from interested citizens, DEBT launched a website last Friday - www.debtpetition.com - where citizens can download a petition form to support repeal of the high-speed rail. 

SAMPLE TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS IN JEOPARDY IF HIGH SPEED RAIL IS IMPLEMENTED
Roadways and Highways

Brevard County:  Addition of lanes and rehabilitation of pavement of I-95 from SR 518 to SR 519 to improve a key evacuation route for all of South Florida.

Reconstruction of CR 516 from Knecht Rd. to RJ Conlan Blvd. - to improve safety and decrease congestion.

Broward County:  New road construction from Andrews Avenue exit from Bridge over CSX railroad and roadway approaches - a new connector to relieve congestion.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR7/US 441 from north of Hallandale Beach to Funston Street - needed capacity to ease congestion and a drainage system to alleviate flooding problems.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of CR 818/Griffin Road from SR 93/I-75 west of Flamingo/124th Avenue - needed capacity to ease congestion.

Collier County:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of I-75 from Golden Gate Parkway to south of Bonita Beach Road - a major north-south artery for Southwest Florida.

Dade County:    Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 826/Palmetto Expressway from SW 32nd Street to SW 16th Street - to reduce congestion and help traffic flow.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 25/Okeechobee Road from east of W. 12th Avenue to west of 19th Street - to alleviate traffic congestion.

New road - NW 87th Avenue from 58th Street to NW 74th Street - to accommodate fast-growing communities in Doral and Hialeah Gardens.

Duval County:  Improvements to I-10/I-95/Myrtle Avenue to relieve congestion and address safety issues.

Addition of lanes and new pavement from I-95 from Heckscher Drive to I-295/SR 9-A - a Gateway project to ease congestion and improve interstate travel.

Escambia and Santa Rosa counties: Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 87 from north of Five Forks Road to Eglin Air Force Base - a key evacuation route, needed to alleviate congestion.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 281/Avalon Boulevard from North of CSX Railroad Bridge to SR 10 - to ease congestion and provide infrastructure for growing communities.

Hillsborough County:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of I-275, improving key access to Tampa International Airport.

Reconstruction of I-75 from Fowler Ave. to CR 581 - to decrease congestion in a statewide economic development corridor.

Acquisition of RW I-4 Selmon Expressway from 7th Ave. to I-4 - to ensure the preservation of a key shipping route to the Port of Tampa.

Manatee and Sarasota counties:  Reconstruction of US 301 to improve crucial inter-county link.

Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 520 to west end of SR 528 to east of CR 532 - a key evacuation route.

Construction of a major interchange at I-4 and East-West Expressway - to alleviate most congested interchange in metro Orlando.

Addition of lanes and new pavement on SR 50 from west of SR 436 to west of SR 417 Greenway - a key commuter route with major congestion.

Palm Beach County:  Additions to SR 710/Beeline Hwy. to increase capacity and improve safety.

Reconstruction of I-95 from PGA Blvd. to Donald Ross Rd., adding capacity to roadway in vicinity of SCRIPPS development.

Pasco County:  Addition of lanes to SR 52 from Moon Lake Rd. to Suncoast Pkwy, decreasing congestion in an evacuation route.

Pinellas County:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 688 from 119th St. to Long Branch Canal, reducing severe congestion in a major east-west connector and evacuation route.

Reconstruct SR 55 (US 19) from 49th St. to 126 Ave. N. - to decrease congestion in a regionally significant roadway.

St. Lucie and Martin Counties:  Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 5/US1 from Rio Mar Drive to North of Midway Road - needed capacity to ease overcrowded roadway.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 70 from west of Header to McCarty Road - to ease congestion and add capacity to SIS roadway.

Volusia County:  Addition of lanes and new pavement of I-4 from Saxon Boulevard Interchange to SR 472 - a key commuter route from Volusia to Metro Orlando.

Addition of lanes and reconstruction of SR 40 from Cone Road to West Tymber Creek - a key evacuation route.

Source:  Florida Department of Transportation’s Five-Year Work Plan (as of February 2004)