Mica crafts rail run around Scottby Dara Kam | February 18th, 2011
U.S. Rep. John Mica has come up with a plan to thwart Gov. Rick Scott’s refusal of $2.4 billion for a high-speed rail project connecting Tampa and Orlando.
Mica, GOP chairman of the House Transportation Committee, is proposing that a “partial project rescue plan” that would substitute Orange and Osceola counties and Orlando for the state and allow the local governments to move forward with the initial 21-mile stretch.
“The first 21-mile section of the proposed corridor from the Orlando Airport to the Convention Center and Disney World holds the potential for not only being a viable project, but one that could turn a profit with a qualified private operator,” Mica said in a statement.
Mica’s plan would work like this:
· The initial operating segment would consist of 21 miles.
· The sub-grantees would consist of Orange, Osceola and the City of Orlando.
· The inter-local agreement would be crafted with these three initial participants, with the potential for additional future partners.
· The federal government would provide financial support for construction of the first segment, up to an agreed upon funding amount.
· The inter-local parties would solicit private sector proposals to finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain the project.
· All parties would agree to proceed only if the project is financially viable and they had unanimous consent regarding the terms of ownership, development and operation of the project.
Earlier this week, tea party-backed Scott stunned fellow Republicans as well as Democrats by refusing highly sought-after federal government’s $2.4 billion in stimulus funds – 90 percent of the project’s total cost. Scott said he did not believe the rail ridership would support the project, potentially putting the state on the hook for future expenses.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave Florida’s Congressional delegation until Thursday to come up with an alternate plan that would alleviate the state’s responsibility for the remaining $280 million and any potential cost overruns.
According to the press release, Mica is awaiting a response from local officials.
“The ridership numbers for this 21-mile corridor would be some of the best in the United States and the world, and I believe could also return revenue to each of the participating partners,” Mica said.
It remains unclear whether Scott ultimately would have to sign off on the plan.