Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that state officials are taking bids for a new high-speed rail line that would connect Tampa and Orlando.
- Rail proposed to run along I-4
- Unnamed company has offered to pay for, build project, says Scott
- Previous high-speed rail projects' funding vetoed by 2 governors
It’s major transportation news for Florida's I-4 Corridor, considered one of the busiest and deadliest in the nation (according to insurance rate data).
The announcement gives new life to a proposal years in the making. The law to have that train built was passed in 1992, but funding for it was vetoed by two governors, including Scott.
What makes this project different, Scott says, is that it has "zero financial risk for Florida taxpayers."
"When I became Governor, the Obama administration was trying to use federal taxpayer dollars to pay for a rail connection that had an extremely high risk of overspending taxpayer dollars with no guarantee of economic growth," Scott said in a statement. "Instead of placing taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, our goal is for the private sector to invest in this project."
The rail is proposed to run along Interstate 4, but the actual path has not been planned out. Whoever lands the project will lease the land from the state and the Central Florida Expressway Authority.
The mayors from both Tampa and Orlando are on board.
"this is exciting news for the @cityoftampa! connecting florida’s cities is a must!” tweeted Tampa's Bob Buckhorn.
The Florida Department of Transportation will accept competitive bids.
Companies will have 120 days to turn in their proposals after FDOT opens up the process for those bids.
Not everyone jumped on the excitement bandwagon in regards to the new project, however. Senator Bill Nelson, who's facing an election year challenge from Scott, criticized the move as a political ploy.
“Gov. Scott had an opportunity to do high-speed rail eight years ago, but refused – falsely telling Florida taxpayers that they would have been on the hook for millions,” said Nelson in a statement. “That wasn’t true then, and it’s still not true now."