TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida could move faster on construction of a high speed rail system than any other state in the union. The environmental impact studies are complete. The right-of-way secured.
2.4 billion federal stimulus dollars have been set aside for the project, but only if Florida puts up the final 280 million dollars.
Governor Rick Scott is searching the globe to find investors willing to front the money. The Japanese are onboard.
There’s also interest from Europe.
“I met with the consuls general of the European Union,” Governor Scott said.
The original plan was to take the 280 million from the state budget, but with new leaders in the conductor's seat, the state’s on a new track.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos says if the private sector isn’t onboard, then the state sure shouldn’t take the risk on rail. “I think that 90 percent being paid for by Washington D.C. should be more than commercially viable, not only for the short term, but also in the operation and maintenance realm.”
But the clock is ticking to find investors. If the state doesn’t come up with the cash before the end of September, the money will be given to another state.
Barney Bishop, the president of the Associated Industries of Florida, doesn’t think that will happen. “We believe that these companies will step forward and pick up the entire cost and the liability to the state will essentially be nil.”
The high speed rail project connecting Tampa to Orlando is projected to create 4-thousand construction jobs over four years and an additional 1-thousand permanent positions.
If the Tampa - Orlando connection is built, the plan is to review building a connection from Orlando to Miami.
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