Scott Rebuffs Efforts to Revive Florida Rail
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
FLORIDA RAIL: Governor Rick Scott's decision to stop Florida high-speed rail in its tracks looks likely to stand, despite scrambling by politicians of all stripes to come up with an alternative. Scott rejected an idea to have local authorities take over the project, arguing the state could still be on the hook for cost overruns, the Miami Herald reports. Last weekend, federal officials gave a cold shoulder to a Florida congressman's idea to run the trains between Orlando's airport and Walt Disney World, according to the St. Petersburg Times . Proponents have until Friday to come up with an alternative, but so far no progress has been made, reports Transportation Nation . Meanwhile, some legislators now want Scott to kill a commuter rail project being built in the Orlando area too, the Times adds in a separate story.
STATE SPENDING: With new transportation money scarce, states are doing a poor job of spending the money they already have, concludes a new report by a Brookings Institution researcher. In the report, Robert Puentes argues that states currently neglect metropolitan areas, do not weigh costs, benefits and economic impact and do not consider transportation's effect on housing, land use or energy. Only 17 states, he says, require road money to go toward fixing existing roads before building new ones.
MARYLAND TOLL ROAD: A controversial toll road in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., known as the Intercounty Connector, opened to traffic Wednesday with 10,000 vehicles traveling the new road in its first morning, the Gazette reports. For now, the ride is free, but tolls go into effect March 6. "The full cost of the Intercounty Connector — the exchange of woodlands for asphalt; the effects on residents along its path; debt payments that could require raising tolls throughout the state — will be analyzed for years," the Washington Post adds. "The immediate question is how opening the first 7.2 miles will affect traffic."
IMMIGRANT LICENSES: A discussion in the New Mexico Senate over putting limits on teen drivers became a "bare-knuckles debate" over whether to allow illegal immigrants to drive, according to The (Farmington) Daily Times . Democrats who control the chamber fought off three attempts by Republicans to deny driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrants, which New Mexico has issued since 2003. Republican Governor Susana Martinez campaigned against such licenses last year, but Democrats now have blocked the change in both the House and Senate.
NO PAT-DOWN: An Alaska lawmaker opted to take a ferry from Seattle to Juneau rather than undergo a pre-flight pat-down screening, a move that earned her widespread support among her fellow House members, the Juneau Empire reports. Legislators banged on their desks to cheer speeches praising Representative Sharon Cissna for taking the long way back to Alaska's remote capital city. Cissna, a breast cancer survivor, was ordered to undergo the pat-down procedure after a body scan showed scar tissue from a mastectomy. "Facing the agent I began to remember what my husband and I'd decided after the previous intensive physical search," she said, according to The Associated Press . "That I never had to submit to that horror again."