New study says high-speed rail would've had operating surplus

Janet Zink in the St. Pete Times got Republican Senator Thad Altman's response. He was the GOP half of the bipartisan lawsuit filed (along with Democrat Arthenia Joyner) that questioned whether the governor had the authority to reject the money on his own. (The Florida Supreme Court ruled that he did.)

"His conclusion was political, not based on economics, good business or even protecting the taxpayers," Altman said. "As time passes and more information comes out, you can see the injustice that was done to the state of Florida."

Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor expressed similar views:

“Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Scott rushed to judgment in rejecting Florida’s high-speed rail and the thousands of jobs that would have come with it. We presented a plan that addressed every one of his concerns, but he rejected it outright. Now we see more evidence that shows just how profitable high-speed rail would have been. Private firms had been clamoring to bid on Florida’s high-speed rail initiative. Now, unfortunately, because of the governor’s rigid ideology, these private companies will look to other states. The jobs and economic benefits will follow.”

Critics said that Rick Scott didn't care about the facts when he cited a Reason Foundation study as the basis to kill high-speed rail in Florida last month, and that feeling will only be intensified now that a study released today shows the line between Tampa and Orlando  would have had 3.3 million riders, generating almost $63 million in ticket sales during its first year of operation in 2015-16. That would have equated to a $10 million operating surplus.

The $1.3 million ridership study was done by the transportation consulting firms Steer Davies Gleave and Wilbur Smith Associates.  It also said that by year 10, the train would have brought in $28.5 million more than it cost to operate and maintain the system.

Governor Rick Scott said upon rejecting $2.4 billion in federal money that he didn't want to put Florida taxpayers on the hook for any cost overruns, despite a plan formulated by the mayors of Tampa, Orlando and Lakeland that tried to assure the governor that would not be the case.

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