Gov. Jeb Bush is determined to stand in the way of progress. He demanded on Thursday that the measure to construct a high-speed rail in Florida be put back on the ballot unless proper corporate sponsorship can be found. The measure was approved in November 2000 by voters and should stay approved. The governor has no right to go against the will of his constituents.
The high-speed rail would stretch between Orlando and Tampa, and construction is set to begin in November 2004. The rail, a construction nightmare that will definitely cause an upheaval with transportation in the state and possibly stall other transportation projects, would be a boon to Florida’s economy. The rail would encourage tourism between Florida’s two attraction-heavy cities and would help alleviate the traffic on I-4, the only direct route between Orlando and Tampa.
Gov. Bush has stated that voters did not fully comprehend the impact of the billion-dollar project when they approved it and that the project will cause too much disruption for other transportation projects. However, there are no current plans to enhance transportation routes close to the same magnitude of the high-speed rail. Also, according to the man responsible for getting the measure on the ballot in the first place, C.C. “Doc” Dockery, corporations are ready to bear the financial burden, and in the end the rail will only cost the state of Florida an estimated 1.5 percent of the state’s transportation budget. That seems a pretty low price to pay for something so progressive and beneficial for Tampa, Orlando and the state on the whole.
Bush runs a risk if he puts the measure back on the ballot. He runs the risk of looking like a governor who doesn’t trust his constituents and one who doesn’t want to do what they support. Also, opposing the bullet train could be construed as an economic blow to Florida, and since Bush’s Legislature just sent millions of government dollars back to Washington, D.C., it seems a balanced budget and sound economy are not on the top of his agenda. Which begs the question, what is?