High-speed rail: One deal Florida can't turn down

All you train skeptics and train deniers and train haters can quit sending me your anti-train spam.

It's a done deal.

In 2016, when I am driving to Tampa, a sleek train will zip past me in the I-4 median, its three passengers waving through a window.

I won't be joining them because driving my Prius will get me there an hour sooner and at a fraction of the cost.

If we had a real Republican running this state, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, he would go on Fox News, kill the train, bask in the outrage, and then disband the teachers union for an encore.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is noncommittal, even after one of his libertarian advisers came out with a study that said the train would cost a lot more than $2.7 billion and carry a lot fewer than 2.4 million passengers every year.

I can't speak for cost. But I do know the only way you'll get 2.4 million people on this train is if you let Universal Orlando put dementors on board and serve $8 mugs of butterbeer.

That doesn't matter. President Obama seems to have latched on to this rail link as a key component in his Europeanization of America. First give them health care and redistribute their wealth, and then take their cars and go for their guns.

The Orlando-Tampa line is key to this strategy because much of the planning has been done, so it would be the first route up and running at European speeds.

A year ago, Obama gave us $1.25 billion to build it. That didn't quite cover half the cost. Still, very tempting.

In October, Obama sweetened the pot with another $800 million. That covered 83 percent of the cost. More tempting.

And then last month, we got another $342 million. That covered about 90 percent of the cost. Most tempting!

The last check came with a not-so-subtle message. That money had been going for rail projects in Ohio and Wisconsin. But their Republican governors rejected it, saying they wanted to use the money for roads instead.

They got no trains. They got no roads. They got no ObamaBucks. They got no federal jobs.

If Rick Scott follows their example, Obama simply will give our money to train projects in Illinois and California.

Associated Industries of Florida understands this, which is why it has come out strongly for the train. Being a fiscal conservative is fine and dandy, as long as it doesn't cost you any federal money.

The state's share now has been reduced to about $300 million, give or take 1,000 teacher salaries. Such a number still would be worth grandstanding about, but it seems we may not even have to pay that.

There are huge international consortiums lining up to design, build, operate and maintain the train. To win the contract, one of them may well agree to put up the state's share of the money and eat any operating losses for 30 years.

And so you ask: Why would the top transit companies agree to lose money on a dog of a route that nobody will ride?

The answer is Phase 2, the train to Miami.

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