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Rail News Home High-Speed Rail

3/21/2011



Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Florida won't reapply for HSR funds; Amtrak to pursue funding for other projects


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Florida’s high-speed rail project is dead … officially … again. On Friday, Florida elected officials announced they wouldn’t have enough time to satisfy federal requirements in order to reapply for the $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funds that Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected last month.

During the past several weeks, officials from the cities of Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Miami have discussed creating a local authority to oversee the high-speed rail project with minimal state involvement. The local governments had been exploring public-private partnerships to advance construction of the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line. However, the entity still would need to work with the state to secure right of way to build the line. Scott had indicated he would not cooperate, according to a press release issued March 11 by the city of Orlando.

In addition, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had said the cities could apply for the funds, provided they partner with a company such as Amtrak. On Friday, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman told Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) — who had been working to keep the project alive — that the railroad wouldn’t have enough time to meet the U.S. Department of Transportation’s April 4 application deadline.

“Amtrak was the last possible hope for immediately saving the rail project’s initial phase,” Nelson said in a prepared statement.

However, the national intercity passenger railroad still plans to work with Florida cities to revive the project in the future, and help develop a rail plan and project timeline.

“Amtrak was excluded from the planning process for the original Tampa-Orlando plan. However, we stand ready to engage in the process and to offer the expertise we have at our disposal to make sure that Florida is positioned to offer competitive applications for federal funding,” Boardman said in a March 11 letter to Nelson. “While the opportunity for funding in this current cycle has passed, it is clear from President Obama’s strong commitment to high-speed rail and the achievement of a balanced transportation system that there will most certainly be funding opportunities in the future.”

In a separate statement issued on Friday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields and Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado said the state will continue to pursue high-speed rail funding opportunities.

“While the immediate path to the start of Florida’s high-speed rail network has been blocked, we remain committed to finding a way to ensure Florida does not get left behind when the rest of the United States moves forward with the creation of a high-speed rail network,” they said. “We are hopeful that, given more time, a way can be found for Florida to apply for high-speed rail dollars in the next funding cycle.”

Meanwhile, Amtrak plans to pursue a share of the $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds being redirected from Florida.

“Amtrak appreciates that the Northeast Corridor — where America’s only high-speed trains operate — has been designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a high-speed rail corridor, making it eligible to compete for the newly available federal funding for high-speed and intercity passenger-rail services,” said Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm in an email. “We will be reaching out to states along the corridor to determine joint application opportunities as well as reviewing any projects that Amtrak might apply for independently.”

Angela Cotey



Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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