All Aboard High-Speed Rail

Florida voters will decide on Tuesday whether they want to move forward with high-speed rail connecting the state's major urban centers. They should make haste to the polls and vote "yes" for the trains - that will make the Sunshine State's future a whole lot brighter.

The cost of building the required additional freeways and airport gates if more high-speed trains aren't built in states with growing populations must be considered - not to mention the impact of adding more traffic, air pollution, and longer commutes.

In 2000, Florida voters approved such a train network, but the plan was put in jeopardy over the need to fund various education initiatives also competing for scarce public dollars. On Nov. 2, voters will decide whether to repeal their earlier vote.

Once finished, the cost for the new train system could total some $40 billion. But compared to building and maintaining highways, the cost of high speed trains is relatively inexpensive - plus they generate revenue. In one Florida county, for example, a new highway is costing taxpayers statewide $100 million per mile. The first leg of the high speed train project would cost $21 million per mile.

In California, the cost of connecting San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (and a few cities in between) with a bullet train is an estimated $37 billion. That's also a big number, but at least one study shows that accommodating California's future travel needs without trains could be double that amount.

California's voters were supposed to decide next week whether to begin the first leg of that project - a $9 billion bond to pay for some 400 miles of track. Unfortunately, the decision was recently derailed by the governor and the legislature until 2006.

Even though some individuals balk at spending large amounts on train projects, high speed and regional rail remain a sound investment that should pay off over the long haul.

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