Mark Wilson Testifies in Support of All Aboard Florida

By: Florida Chamber of Commerce

Chamber Leaders from Central and South Florida Also Share Support

Earlier today, Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson provided testimony at the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act Hearing taking place before the Florida Development Finance Corporation. The Florida Chamber’s testimony was in support of approving All Aboard Florida’s bond application.

“The All Aboard Florida passenger rail project represents a once in a generation opportunity for Florida,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “The system will be privately constructed and operated, so the many benefits to the public will come at no risk to taxpayers.”

For your information, below is Mr. Wilson’s testimony.

Good morning and thank you Mr. Spivey. My name is Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

At the Florida Chamber, we’re focused on securing Florida’s future by making our state more competitive through free enterprise. Thanks to strong private-sector job creation, our state’s moving in the right direction.

Florida recently surpassed New York to become the third most populous state in the nation. In fact, if Florida were a nation, we’d be the 19th largest economy. By 2030, Florida will have six million more residents, and we’ll need two million more jobs. Preparing Florida’s infrastructure for smart growth is important.

All Aboard Florida represents a giant leap forward in that mission. With an entrepreneurial spirit reminiscent of Henry Flagler, Henry Plant and Walt Disney, All Aboard Florida is transforming Florida, undertaking the largest infrastructure challenge in this state perhaps since the Interstate system was built.

All Aboard Florida puts the long-term security of our state ahead of the short-term – especially when it comes to mobility. On our east coast and in Central Florida, road congestion is no longer the exception, it is the daily norm. Intercity rail is essential to coping with that growth and preserving Florida’s place as America’s number one tourist destination.

Since 1984, when the Florida Legislature and Governor Bob Graham created the Florida High Speed Rail Commission, our state has attempted to build a viable High Speed Rail system. Thankfully, we have Florida East Coast Industries and the All Aboard Florida system that can bring intercity passenger rail service to this state. And they will do it without taxpayer funds or subsidies.

Last August, a coalition of Chambers of Commerce across Florida, led by the Florida Chamber sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration supporting All Aboard Florida. Support for this system is not confined just to those counties where All Aboard Florida intends to invest Private Activity Bond dollars.  Support is evident beyond the initial Miami to Orlando segment.

Communities such as Tampa and Jacksonville look forward to being connected by All Aboard Florida.  Brevard County is conducting their own study of potential station sites, supported by the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce and local governments.

The All Aboard Florida passenger rail project represents a once in a generation opportunity for Florida. The system will be privately constructed and operated, so the many benefits to the public will come at no risk to taxpayers. Congress made rail and highway projects eligible for Private Activity Bonds in 2005 with just this type of investment in mind. All Aboard Florida’s system will succeed because they are doing it smartly.

They recognize the unique ridership potential that comes from connecting America’s most visited city with South Florida’s commercial centers. And like the Florida Chamber, they recognize that Florida’s east coast will continue to attract new residents who demand a quality of life that includes a first-rate transportation system.

Without All Aboard Florida, decades from now, we might see another attempt to build an expensive, inefficient, taxpayer-funded and subsidized rail system. More likely, Florida will face a future of growing highway gridlock and a deteriorating quality of life.

On behalf of the Florida Chamber, we encourage you to approve this project. Approve the All Aboard Florida bond application.

Thank you.