Un tgv en floride ? (en anglais)

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  • Publié le : 13 juin 2010
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Once stopped in its development in favor to road and air means, train, and notably its high-speed version, became a renewed trend in mass transportation in the U.S. Although being studied since a few years, the recent economical crisis and ecological awareness have probably accelerated political will and support. One of the most advanced projects is a link between Tampa and Orlando then Miami, inFlorida. The question about its cost and means of funding have generated controversial opinions, mostly since it has appeared that federal implication is tied to subsequent conditions of regional improvement in connecting infrastructure. Its justification also has provoked criticism about promoters' expectations. Therefore, should it be funded in this configuration? Let's attempt to sum uparguments from both sides after recalling historical facts.

If the Tampa-Orlando project has rapidly gained momentum, it is the result of years of planning and recent, conscious political decisions. This long-time wanted project has encountered diverse fortunes, culminating in a a ballot initiative back in 2000 and a voters' denial in 2004. While an expanded and improved passenger train service hasbeen considered primordial since 1990, it has lacked until recently political related decisions and support. "Recognizing the need for a more rational transport policy fourteen years ago, Florida's legislature laid the groundwork for America's first high speed rail system. A public-private partnership was decided on to provide financing. Florida Overland Express (FOX) and the Florida Department ofTransportation went ahead with the project, and completion was scheduled for 2006" (Trainweb.org, 2001). Then newly elected governor, Jeb Busch decided to kill high-speed rail in 1999, evoking considerations of financial risks too heavy for the State, low population densities and local transit scarcity. As the necessity of a balanced transportation in Florida and on the East Coast remained inforce, "the Florida Department of Transportation studied the feasibility of high-speed rail in 2001. Favorable conclusions in that report led to subsequent studies and efforts by the DOT to preserve or acquire rights of way for future rail lines" (The Herald Tribune, page A12, 01/29/2010). This commitment has led Obama administration to choose this project as a priority to be awarded a $1.25 billionfederal grant, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. "Now that there’s federal money on offer, the state has dusted off its plans and stands a good chance of becoming one of the first to start construction." (Glave and Swaby, 2010). The Florida State House and Senate both pass legislation to fund rail in Florida on December 8, 2009.

Critics on this project arenumerous and various, if not structured in a logical framework. They are mostly related to financial concerns, in both construction funding and operating costs. "A recent Federal Railroad Association feasibility study concluded that the average high-speed rail corridor could cover only 29 percent of its costs from commercial revenue" (Poole, 2010). Promoters' assumptions regarding ridership and costsare considered by many as too optimistic.
Insufficient private funding implications have also been exposed. In a Jan. 28 release, Rep. John Mica said “I am disappointed in the failure of the Obama Administration to follow the guidelines of the 2008 law, which highlighted private sector investment and participation. The projects chosen by the Administration were not transparently selected and lackadequate private sector financial commitment. Just spending huge amounts of federal taxpayer funds will not insure success of these megaprojects. The last thing the American people need is another bailout program with low-speed trains to nowhere.” Population densities, viewed as too low in the U.S., are also a popular fact to opponents. It is feared that the rail solution will not attract...