Ripple effects of Florida’s HSR decisions

Mike Rosenberg writes in the Contra Costa Times:

In the short term, Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to quash construction of Florida’s costly high-speed train between Tampa and Orlando could inject up to $2 billion into California’s forthcoming $43 billion bullet-train line. Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday that he’d welcome the money and reiterated his support for the project.

But over the long term, the loss of a key ally could prove far more damaging as the state turns to Washington, D.C., for about $15 billion needed to extend the project beyond two small Central Valley towns and into the Bay Area and down to Anaheim. California, and its Democratic establishment, may find itself in the cross hairs of a hostile Republican Party that’s looking to pare federal spending.

Go read the whole thing.

So will our lukewarm supporters of HSR back down vis-a-vis the loss of its allies?

It’s not looking very likely. Supporters can quickly take solace–as they already do in this story–in California exceptionalism. We’re such visionaries here, California always takes the brave new step, etc.

There are policy and planning reasons why states might differ in their willingness to stay aboard. Although I do think Florida’s governor is rejecting the funds largely out of political motivation, Florida has fewer potential riders and fewer funds to raid from in case the costs get high or–and this is something California is refusing to face–the service requires an operating subsidy.

States have learned the Big Dig lesson: “free” money from the Feds has its limits.

We’ll see. For me, any billions we get from other places are billions we won’t have to scramble to find when the California HSR budget explodes–even more than it has already. (One cost figure before the ballot box measure, $10 billion increase after the measure; I live in a world where $10 billion is a lot of money).