Mica: Scott Would Support Rail If Biz Pays

By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida
By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, January 18, 2011 --

A consensus may be forming - which includes Gov. Rick Scott - that a long-proposed Tampa to Orlando bullet train should roll if private businesses wants to pay for the remainder of the ride.

The new central Florida-based chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee told a rail panel Tuesday in Jacksonville that the new governor would support the train if the state did not have to pay anything more than the about $2.4 billion it will receive for the project from federal government.

“This project includes a link from Orlando International Airport to Disney,” the Florida Times-Union reported U.S. Rep. John Mica said Tuesday while speaking at the Florida Statewide Passenger Rail Commission. “That should be a money maker for a private company.”

“I think my views are in line with what Gov. Scott thinks,” the paper also reported Mica said.

However, a spokeswoman for Scott told the News Service of Florida Tuesday afternoon that the governor was still waiting for a feasibility study due in February before making up his mind.

“Gov. Scott must first review a feasibility study, which is due in February, before making any determination on high speed rail,” Scott spokeswoman Amy Graham said. “The governor would like to ensure that there is a return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers before making any commitments.”

Mica’s comments Tuesday echoed the most recent tack taken on the high-speed rail by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who has said that even paying $300 million for the train instead of the full projected cost of $2.6 billion was too expensive for the state. After critics’ pointed out that the Senate president had favored an earlier SunRail project in Orlando, for which the state is scheduled to pay for purchasing tracks, Haridopolos said that businesses should pay the difference for the high speed train because they would get it for “90 percent off.”

A spokesman for Mica told the News Service of Florida that the congressman has always thought the high speed rail project, which he has generally supported, should be paid for using some private money.

“Mr. Mica thinks it’s time for the private sector step up and contribute to this project,” Mica spokesman Justin Harlecode said. “He doesn’t feel like any additional state or federal funding is necessary. His idea of high speed rail in general involves a strong involve private component.”

Advocates for the high speed rail, who once watched former Gov. Jeb Bush convince voters that the state should not build the train because it could not afford the full $2.6 billion, argue that it’s time to roll with the project because most of it will be paid by the federal government..

Supporters have suggested that businesses would likely offer more to Florida than they normally would in exchange for the opportunity to build one of the first high speed rails in the United States. Critics, however, have said that the train will likely not generate enough ridership to cover its costs.


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