Election Day could derail Florida's high speed rail plans

10:14 AM, Oct 8, 2010   |    comments
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  • High speed train maker Siemens brought this mock-up of its Velaro train to Tampa.
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Tampa, Florida -- An exhibit giving folks a taste of Florida's high speed rail future runs through this weekend at MOSI. But that future may be derailed before it even begins, depending on the outcome of Election Day.

Your first chance to see what it would be like to whoosh between Tampa and Orlando at up to 168 miles an hour is on display this weekend at MOSI in Tampa.

See Also: Sneak peek into high-speed rail

Connected to the museum is a full size mock-up of the front section of a silver-and-blue high speed train.

The leather seats and warm colors inside give the "Valero" train an upscale feel, but one of its biggest selling points is behind the scenes: fuel economy. The train is powered by electric wires running along its tracks, and gets the energy equivalent of 700 miles per gallon of gasoline.

The exhibit is sponsored by Siemens, one of the companies hoping to build trains for Florida's high speed rail line, which is set to be up and running in 2015.

But whether Florida's high speed rail line is ever built may depend on who's elected governor next month.

Republican candidates for governor in Ohio and Wisconsin have promised to kill high speed rail projects in their states if they're elected. They plan to turn away stimulus money from the federal government being used to fund the projects.

California's Republican candidate for governor, Meg Whitman, has also said she wants to stop her state's project.

Alex Sink, the Democrat running for Florida governor, has long supported a high speed rail project down the middle of Interstate 4, as well as the stimulus package. She says spending money on this investment will keep folks working and fight off the recession.

10 News has asked Republican Rick Scott's campaign for a direct position on whether he would try to shut down Florida's high speed rail project if elected. We have gotten no direct answer.

However, Scott campaign spokesperson Bettina Inclán told us in a statement, "Rick supports transportation infrastructure and modernizing our transportation system. However, he is opposed to investing in projects that have little or no return on investment to the state."

"We have seen no reports that suggest the bullet train would be self-sufficient. The state has been subsidizing Tri-Rail [a commuter train in South Florida] since its inception and we can not afford to be subsidizing the bullet train as well."

That statement does not address the many existing state transportation projects that are currently not self-sufficient. State roads, for example, are primarily funded by taxpayers and as a whole do not turn a profit for the state.

The exhibit at MOSI does not deal with the politics of the rail line -- it's all about the experience of cruising from Downtown Tampa to Orlando International Airport in 55 minutes. MOSI admission includes access to the exhibit, which is on display through Sunday, October 10th.

Another exhibit about Florida's rail future -- and its past -- is open this weekend, as well. You can check out "The Orange Blossom Special to High Speed Rail: Train Travel in Tampa Bay" at the Tampa Bay History Center through December.

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Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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