Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Florida HSR leader quits, protesting state's inertia

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One of Florida’s leading high speed rail proponents has resigned from the Florida High Speed Rail Authority, citing state indifference to federal HSR funds now available. C.C. “Doc” Dockery (pictured) has submitted his letter of resignation to authority Chairman Lee Chira, expressing displeasure with Florida’s unwillingness to seek any of the $8 billion in federal HSR funding being made available.

dockery_2.jpgChira said that Florida, along with California, are frontrunners to capture much of the federal funding. Industry observers outside the state question such parity between the two states, noting that state Gov. Charlie Crist has declined to endorse any Florida application for such funding, thus continuing the state’s reluctance to commit to HSR under former Gov. Jeb Bush, who terminated the state’s HSR program in 1999 and who tried to force the authority to disband.

By contrast, California has committed almost $10 billion in state funds to its estimated $44 billion network, and is likely to receive federal assistance due to strong backing of the project by the state's powerful congressional delegation.

In 2000, Dockery spent $3 million of his own funds to place a proposed state constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring the state to pursue HSR. Voters passed the measure, and the state legislature created the High Speed Rail Authority, with Dockery serving as one of nine members. Gov. Bush, however, put the issue back on a subsequent ballot, and voters approved a measure to remove any obligation to build HSR within the state.