Scott Puts Road Projects on Hold During Review
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
STOP SIGNS: Florida Governor Rick Scott may soon join the ranks of new Republican governors who have put the brakes on big transportation projects. Scott has placed a hold on $500 million worth of these projects in Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reports . "We'll make sure that the contracts that should go forward will go forward," he told the paper. "My job is to watch how this money is spent and I'm going to do it." Meanwhile, a state Senate panel is considering how — or whether — to move forward with a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. New Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin have already ended work on similar federally funded rail projects.
THE REPUBLICAN EXCEPTION: While many new Republican governors are pulling the plug on transportation projects, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is headed in the opposite direction. He wants to spend $4 billion on transportation, most of it paid for through borrowing, the Virginian Pilot notes . McDonnell's approach is at odds not just with other Republicans, but also with the tack taken by Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley of neighboring Maryland, writes the Washington Post. Virginia is in better shape fiscally than Maryland, but politics plays a role, too. "Democrats have had to prove to voters that they care about austerity. Republicans had to prove that they had a plan to move forward in the future," Bob Holsworth, a former government professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the Post .
TxDOT REVISION: A key legislative panel, the Sunset Advisory Commission, has called for overhauling Texas' five-member Transportation Commission, which heads the state Department of Transportation, and replacing the panel with a single commissioner instead. The move would give Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, more control over the agency, explains the Dallas Morning News. Panel members said more accountability to the governor would help the beleaguered agency. "I think the ultimate problem at TxDOT is there is not a direct point of responsibility," state Representative Dennis Bonnen said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . The Sunset Advisory Commission's suggestions now go before the Legislature.
BAD RECEPTION: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal was greeted during his first days in office with a winter storm that caused what the Atlanta Journal Constitution called a "transportation catastrophe." Deal defended the state's response to the storm. The governor said he had approved going forward with plans drafted by his predecessor. But the paper said the state was "overwhelmed" with the task of clearing any highways other than the major ones, and Atlanta's mayor said the city had to start clearing roads that were the state's responsibility.
MAYORS CARPING: Faced with the prospect of waiting until 2015 for the Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study of how to separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin, a group of mayors and state officials decided to do the research themselves. Their study is slated to come out next January, writes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . The mayors and state officials are looking at ways to prevent invasive species, such as Asian carp, from entering the Great Lakes and wrecking the ecosystem there. Such a move would require closing canals in Chicago that link the two watersheds.