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U.S. Rep. Hastings: Rejecting high-speed rail money was big mistake for Florida

(The following column by U.S. Rep Alcee L. Hastings appeared on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel website on June 1, 2011. Rep. Hastings serves as senior member of the House Rules Committee, ranking Democratic member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic chairman of the Florida Delegation.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — As gas prices hover around $4 per gallon nationwide, Floridians are reminded yet again of what could have been.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on May 9 $2 billion in high-speed rail awards to boost train speeds in the Northeast Corridor, expand service in the Midwest, and provide new, state-of-the-art locomotives and railcars. These funds could have gone to Florida. In fact, they did.

Last year, Florida was poised to become the first state to usher in the era of American high-speed rail. With $1.25 billion in federal stimulus funds announced by President Obama, as well as another $342 million originally intended for projects in Wisconsin and Ohio, Florida would have built the first stretch of a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando that would later link to Central Florida's planned SunRail commuter line, South Florida's Tri-Rail commuter line and a national rail network, fundamentally changing the way we travel in this country.

This historic opportunity was lost, along with the expected 23,000 construction jobs, commerce and tourism it would generate, when Gov.Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail in February. He fallaciously claimed that Floridians would be left with the final bill and questioned prospective ridership.

Full column: www.sun-sentinel.com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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