August 23, 2014

Key congressman urges private sector HSR

WASHINGTON — There is a lot of talk, hope and hype about high-speed rail in the United States, but savvy policy analysts, planners and economists expect only a very few of those projects to move forward in the near future.

One such project high on the list of pragmatists is a Florida high-speed rail line linking Tampa and Orlando — and, eventually, Miami.

Florida Congressman John Mica, the Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will have influence over federal funding for the project. This week, he voiced an opinion that for the line to move forward, private sector financing will also be necessary.

The Florida Times-Union newspaper reports that Mica, while supportive of the project — expected to carry an initial $2.7 billion price tag for the Tampa-Orlando leg — wants the private sector, and not the State of Florida, to commit at least $300 million to the project. Much of the remainder would come from federal funds.

“This project includes a link from Orlando International Airport to Disney,” Mica is quoted by the Florida Times-Union. “That should be a money maker for a private company.”

“I think my views are in line with what [Florida] Gov. Scott thinks,” Mica is quoted by the Florida Times-Unions. Scott has yet to indicate whether he supports the high-speed rail line.

The Times-Union notes that “if Scott decides not to build it, the federal government will take the money and give it to a project in another state. Ohio and Wisconsin refused [federal] money after electing Republican governors, and some of their [federal] money is now going to Florida.”