Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Statement of Sierra Club Florida: Gov. Scott's Decision on High Speed Rail is a Tragedy for Florida's Economy and Environment

Statement of Sierra Club Florida: Governor Scott’s Decision on High Speed Rail Is a Tragedy for Florida’s Economy and Environment
 Keeps State Addicted to Oil, Stuck with Transportation System of the Past

Governor Rick Scott’s rejection today of federal high speed rail funding is a tragic loss for our state’s economy, especially our tourism industry, and our environment, but a win for Big Oil. 

Sierra Club Florida regrets that Governor Scott has said "no" to bringing 21st century transportation alternatives to our state.  This decision maintains Florida’s addiction to oil and sends jobs to other states that will gladly accept our share of high speed rail funds.

Floridians lack transportation choices leaving us to drive our cars and burn oil and pollute our air.  Currently we have congested highways, dirty air and a need to protect our coasts from oil drilling.  Sierra Club Florida believes that now is the time to invest in and build the foundation for a transportation system that helps move us beyond oil. High Speed Rail would have created jobs and provided Florida with an oil free transportation option.  Governor Scott’s “NO” today means no jobs, no growth, and no movement away from our state’s addiction to oil.

Moreover, Florida has lost credibility as a business-friendly state. Florida’s High Speed Rail is a shovel ready project with people invested in laying the rail, businesses and labor alike ready to go to work who have suddenly had the rug pulled out from underneath them. This action sends a message that Florida is not a safe place to make plans to do business in.

Governor Scott today demonstrates he is not looking to the future, but rather intends to maintain a continued reliance on oil. While Governor Scott expresses a concern for the operating expenses of High Speed Rail, this decision ignores the on-going boondoggle of spending billions of our tax dollars on ever-expanding roads. In some parts of our state, roads cannot be expanded any further to accommodate growth and seasonal tourism traffic.

Our state’s loss - the jobs, economic development, increased tourism that we would have had - are other states' gains. As we saw recently with Wisconsin’s rejection of high speed rail funds, other states, including California, Illinois, North Carolina and others, will gladly accept the funds and benefits of expanding passenger train service. Those states see themselves as winners in transportation technology and planning for the future. Florida will become even less competitive with such states than it is today in drawing the economic investment it needs to grow its economy with high paying employers.

Despite this tremendous disappointment, Sierra Club Florida will continue the fight for the clean transportation choices that our state needs. Whether it's to reduce our addiction to oil, clean up our air to reduce the harmful levels of ozone that result in asthma attacks in our children, or to avoid the dangerous driving conditions on I-4, Floridians need cleaner and safer transportation choices. Governor Scott has just done all in his power to take away an important choice that would have put FL in the lead.  It’s now up to Floridians to work together at the local and regional level to rise to this challenge.

Phil Compton, Regional Representative
Linda Bremer, Sierra Club Florida Transportation Chair