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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Mica proposes rescue plan for Florida HSR project as deadline to present new options quickly approaches


On Feb. 17, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Florida congressmen he would give them one week to come up with options to advance the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail project without the state’s involvement, after Gov. Rick Scott rejected federal funds.

The next day, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said he had completed an assessment of potential options and was exploring what he calls a “partial project rescue plan.” A 21-mile segment of the proposed corridor from Orlando International Airport to the Orange County Convention Center and Disney World would not only be a viable project, but one that could turn a provide with a qualified private operator, Mica said in a prepared statement.

Under Mica’s proposal, Orange and Osceola counties, as well as the city of Orlando, could serve as sub-grantees and craft an inter-local agreement, with the potential to add future partners. The federal government would provide funding to construct the corridor’s first segment and the inter-local parties then would solicit private-sector proposals to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the corridor, Mica said.

All parties would only proceed with the project if it’s deemed financially viable and there is unanimous consent regarding terms of ownership, development and operation, according to Mica.

But according to an article posted Feb. 20 on the Bradenton Herald’s website, the U.S. Department of Transportation is balking at Mica’s scaled-back high-speed rail proposal, saying it would not connect large metropolitan areas and quickly move people between then.

Meanwhile, other Florida congressmen and local elected officials are drafting their own plans to privatize high-speed rail in the state and plan to submit them to the governor soon. However, Scott remains convinced that any proposal for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando would cost Florida taxpayers, according to recently published reports.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/22/2011