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Florida High Speed Rail: one-time opponents of rail may support Tampa-to-Orlando leg

12:23 AM, Jan 19, 2011   |    comments
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A computer rendering shows what a proposed high speed rail line would look like on the Interstate 4 corridor.
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TAMPA, Florida - State and federal leaders who were once outspoken critics of high-speed rail (HSR) are now forming a consensus that the project - as currently envisioned in Florida - could work well for Floridians.

Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Haven, the chair of the House Transportation Committee, said Tuesday that he and Gov. Rick Scott could get behind a rail plan that included the winning developer/builder covering the state's $280 million portion of the bill.  The federal government has already committed $2.4 billion to the project.

More Florida High speed rail coverage:
1/11/11 - New report provides hope for HSR in Florida
1/6/11- Gov. Scott weighs high-speed rail options
12/10/10 - Federal funds roll in as other states reject rail
11/10/10 -
High-speed rail stops in Lakeland under scrutiny
11/9/10 - Nelson, Iorio plead with Rick Scott to support high-speed rail
10/8/10 -
Election Day could derail high-speed trains
8/7/10 - High-speed rail workshop for local businesses
7/19/10 - Work on high-speed rail lines begin along I-4

State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, has long been touting a plan to encourage developer/builder groups to commit money to the project - and assume all the ridership risk - in their bids.  The thinking is that the initial high-speed rail line will open the door for more lucrative contracts for the winning group down the road.

Stephen Reich, the interim director for USF's Center for Urban Transportation Studies (CUTR), says bidders aren't focusing on just the initial line and neither should politicians.

"You have to think of it in the ultimate context of the plan, which is a Tampa-to-Miami leg," Reich said, adding that the final Florida rail line would be competitive in cost, time, and convenience to air travel.

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