News on the National Front

High Speed Rail
The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, announced today that he is returning $2.4 billion in federal funds to build a high speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. He is the third newly elected Republican Governor to turn down federal funds for high speed rail following Ohio and Wisconsin.

The US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood expressed disappointment, but said, “Nevertheless, there is overwhelming demand for high speed rail in other states that are enthusiastic to receive Florida’s funding and the economic benefits it can deliver, such as manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as private development along its corridors.”

While other states are happy to take the funds originally allocated for Florida, this development poses a challenge for Obama’s high speed rail program. It will be hard to create a high speed rail network that connects major destinations across the country if states continue to refuse to participate.  Imagine what the interstate highway network would look like if states had opted out of that major investment.

Transportation Re-authorization and the Gas Tax
Congress is still working on the main federal transportation legislation, which was due to be revised over a year ago. One of the main sticking points has been the declining revenues from the federal gas tax and how to continue to pay for transportation infrastructure. In a Senate hearing today two unlikely leaders joined forces to support raising the gas tax. The president of the Chamber of Commerce and the head of the AFL-CIO testified in support of increased transportation infrastructure spending. Even more improbable was the positive reception the idea of raising taxes received from some Senators.


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