Rick Scott Gets Over His Fear of Trains and Approves SunRail

Gov. Rick Scott has seemed to overcome his hesitations about funding Central Florida's SunRail commuter train program and announced his approval of state funding for the program today. Scott's first big decision in office was surprisingly killing a federally funded high-speed train project, a move that proved highly unpopular and plays no small part in his abysmal approval ratings. It seems with his approval of SunRail he's trying to learn from his mistakes, but the project could actually be a bigger burden on tax payers than the high-speed rail plan ever was.

Naked Poltics pulled side-by-side comparisons of the two projects from a report from January:

Costs to State and Local Taxpayers for SunRail and High Speed Rail

30 Year Horizon



High Speed Rail


$2.66 billion


$2.65 billion


61.5 miles of existing freight rail to be shared by commuter passengers and heavy freight in Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola Counties

17 stations


84 miles of new dedicated track exclusively for passengers on state-owned right-of-way of I-4 between Tampa and Orlando

5 stations

State taxpayer obligation over 7 years:


Minimum: $901 million

State taxpayer obligation over 30 years:         Minimum: ZERO

Maximum: $280 million


Local taxpayer obligation over 30 years (Volusia, Seminole, Orange 

and Osceola Counties):

Minimum: $526 million

Local taxpayer obligation over 30 years:



Federal funding

$684 million*


*Potential funding, not guaranteed- any shortfall will be split 50/50 by state and local taxpayers

Federal funding

(during  construction phase):

TOTAL: $2.39 billion guaranteed


Farebox: (determined by ridership and concessions)

$510 million estimated

(ANY shortfall will be paid by state taxpayers in the first 7 years and by local taxpayers in years 8-30)

Farebox: all risk of ridership, operations and maintenance are assumed by the private operator that is chosen through a Request for Proposal (RFP)


Construction Cost Overruns:

Split 50-50 by state and local taxpayers

Construction Cost Overruns:

Assumed by the private operator that is chosen through a competitive RFP

Job creation:

8,000 direct jobs for construction of stations and upgrades to existing track.

Job creation:

23,000 direct jobs during the 3-4 year construction period

Private investment:


Private investment:

Potentially a $400 million cash investment

January 21, 2011

High speed rail would have cost Florida tax payers less but created more jobs.

That being said, SunRail still provides much needed public transport infrastructure for one of Florida's fastest growing regions.

Interestingly for Scott, the decision to push forward on the project may cost him some Tea Party support.

"Governor Rick Scott was clearly being influenced by big money lobbyists and failed to deliver on his promises. I really thought he was going to fight more for the taxpayers and wouldn't give up," Everett Wilkinson of the South Florida tea party told The Orlando Sentinel.

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Kyle Munzenrieder