The Axe the Tax/Tea Party folks are crowing that this is the “death knell” for SunRail. Maybe. But what does that even mean? What is this thing to which highly paid PR people affixed the term “SunRail”?
There was a time in the spring of 2008, I think, when I used to wake up in cold sweats shrieking, “It’s a freight deal, not a passenger rail deal.”
I still don’t think most people–including the Tea Party doofuses–understand that. It’s the state-funded implementation of CSX’s business plan — paying for much of the new Winter Haven hub, paying to upgrade tracks, paying to locate existing train traffic, etc. It’s classic corporate welfare, with taxpayers coughing up huge money to help CSX make business upgrades that it would make on its own if left to its own devices. By the way, it also lets Orlando dump its hated freight train traffic on downtown Lakeland.
SunRail is the shiny object designed to obscure all of that — always has been, even when they just called it Central Florida Commuter Rail back decades ago in 2007.
Has anything been studied as much as SunRail? The glacial Health Care vote process was only a third as long as SunRail battle. But now we get another delay so that Gov. Medicare Fraud can study CSX/SunRail yet again. What on earth is this ever so sharp and decisive CEO he-man studying? Well, nothing really.
It’s a game of leverage and delay–designed to come up with a method to kill SunRail while still giving CSX the $500 million or so it wants for the hub and upgrades. That would please J.D., who is a kindred spirit with Gov. Medicare Fraud, despite their current “constitutional powers” loggerheads. (Boy, when those two debate, it’s like Jefferson and Adams, isn’t it?) Maybe they’ll all still agree to dump CSX traffic into Lakeland for a while as a consolation to the Orlando cabal. But it won’t last. Go look at a map to see the most direct route from Jacksonville to the Winter Haven hub. It ain’t through Lakeland.
So actually, the cynical NIMBY in me should root for this decoupling that I’m predicting. It would give me another bludgeon to pound you free-market conservatives with. And I’d get to say, “How’s that taste, Charlie?”
But I’m really not so cynical, nor a NIMBY. I actually think our representatives ought to craft policy and government investment that accrues to some general benefit. I’m actually a fatalistic romantic. And I continue to root for our very entertaining governor to actually show that he’ll act on what he says he believes, rather than what his whole career indicates that he does.