Huge Local Taxpayer Risk for High Speed Rail: Response to Lakeland Ledger


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It is incorrect to claim that the private bidder will pay any cost overrun on the Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line. In fact, gross cost escalation has been typical of similar projects and no private company will be prepared to pay the extent of overruns that have happened elsewhere.

The reality is that whatever local government entity signs the federal grant contract will be finally responsible for any cost overruns, the requirement to run a specified level of service and any operating subsidies. There is no avoiding this obligation once the grant is accepted. Governor Scott has saved Florida taxpayers a potential liability that could reach well into the billions.

Lakeland and Polk County taxpayers, as well as those from the Orlando and Tampa areas need to understand that the huge liability from which Florida taxpayers have been saved by Governor Scott’s action will fall much more intensively on them. Instead of the entire state paying, just local taxpayers will be on the hook.

In the likely event that this happens, local taxpayers will have no more than expressions of regret from the responsible officials (and perhaps The Ledger).

Wendell Cox

Principal, Demographia

Author, The Tampa to Orlando High Speed Rail Project: Florida Taxpayer Risk Assessment


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