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Gov. Scott: We're Moving on Privately Funded Orlando-to-Tampa High Speed Rail

June 22, 2018 - 5:45pm
Rick Scott
Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has begun the process to allow for private investment in a high-speed rail connection from Orlando to Tampa. 

FDOT and the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) received an unsolicited proposal to lease property owned by the state and CFX to build a high-speed train along Interstate 4. Based on the unsolicited proposal, FDOT, on behalf of the State and CFX, is initiating an open, transparent procurement process so any interested private entities may apply. The request is for those interested in leasing FDOT and CFX-owned rights-of-way to establish privately funded passenger rail service between Orlando and Tampa.

Said Scott, “This is an exciting opportunity for Orlando, Tampa and our entire state. 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. 

"This is exactly what we’re seeing in California," Scott pointed out, "a state which took this bad deal from Obama, and in Connecticut, where taxpayers had to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for their rail line. 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. Through private investment, we ensure that this major project has zero financial risk to Florida taxpayers.”

Said FDOT Secretary Mike Dew, “The department is committed to creating a robust transportation system that meets Florida’s current and future needs. Privately funded passenger rail will provide residents and visitors a transportation choice for one of the busiest corridors in the state.”

Patrick Goddard, president and chief operating officer of Brightline -- the passenger rail service under construction between Miami and Orlando via what it insists is no-risk private funding -- clearly intends to be part of the Orlando-Tampa process. 

“As one of the nation’s fastest growing regions, Tampa Bay is a natural extension for Brightline," Goddard said in a prepared statement. "Our state’s residents, visitors and economy will benefit tremendously from a fully connected passenger rail system that includes our current operations in South Florida and our future line to Orlando. We are currently engaged in the RFP process, which is the first step needed to extend the system to the Tampa Bay region.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, “Orlando is a destination of choice for those visiting our world-class attractions, attending business conventions or enjoying a weekend getaway. As mayor, I have worked to ensure that we offer residents and visitors, safe, efficient and affordable transportation options. Having more passenger rail options will create more jobs and make it easier to experience our great city.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn agreed. “Whether it’s visiting our pristine beaches or catching a game, adding safe and affordable private passenger rail service will provide a needed alternative for those wanting to spend time in Tampa," he said. "Establishing private passenger rail service enables more public transportation options while creating jobs and reducing congestion on our roadways.”

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs added, "Throughout my two terms as mayor, the improvement and expansion of our regional transportation systems has been a top priority. As a premier global destination for guests, families and business leaders from around the world, we’re committed to the creation of transportation infrastructure -- including private passenger rail -- that will serve our residents and guests seamlessly.”

Meanwhile, Florida Democratic Party Spokesman Nate Evans was quick to issue his party's reply by releasing the following statement: 

"Rick Scott had a chance to build a high speed rail line seven years ago, and Floridians -- especially those residents and businesses along I-4 -- have paid the price of Scott's self-serving politics. It's no surprise that -- in an election year -- Rick Scott is saying and doing anything to get a promotion, all while Floridians are left in the dust.”

In 2011, Scott rejected more than $2 billion in federal funds for a taxpayer funded 84-mile government train from Tampa to Orlando because the project would have exposed Florida taxpayers to millions of dollars of costs for decades. 

In other states that accepted funding, there were cost overruns and ongoing operation and maintenance costs. The State of California accepted federal funding for a project that current estimates indicate will experience significant cost overruns, with costs rising from approximately $33 billion to potentially $98.1 billion, and with the hope of limited service beginning in 2027. In Connecticut, state taxpayers had to pay more than $560 million for their new government train.

Private intercity passenger rail service has been constructed and is currently being operated in Florida at no cost to taxpayers. This Request for Proposals (RFP) will provide an opportunity for the private sector to expand privately funded passenger rail service in the state at a zero risk to Florida taxpayers. Interested parties will have 120 days to submit proposals after the RFP is released.


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Try a tunnel from the boring company, instead of a 19th century train. Cheaper and faster. Fist new idea in transportation in my lifetime.

Considering that no public transit rail roads make enough in revenue to pay to keep them running how long will this zero financial risk to Florida taxpayers last until taxpayers will be paying for something the majority didn't want and only a few people use? Sun Rail is a good example of how few people use trains. They have all kinds of special promotions to attract riders. The promotions never work. The railroad is still begging for more riders,.

we have a third world transit system thanks to *** clowns like this bozo... Now the super flip flopper is for high speed rail. This clown will do anything for votes. He flops more than Trump the Chump...

That just about says it all! (This state REALLY NEEDS a creative, progressive (small 'p'), and productive government that puts THE PEOPLE (rather than special interests) FIRST!)

We need a governor that is not bought and paid for by big corporate money. We also need legislators that will stand up for Florida - not sell us out! Vote Catherine Pride for FL Senate District 26.

We're on a "rail" OK,.....Tied to it, just like an old-time "silent movie"; Only THIS time, THAT "rail" is directly tied to Florida's 'Tax Coffers' for just as long as that "drain train" rolls...

So our government is going to ALLOW a private company to do this? When did we lose control?

Having spent time in Europe, I've become a huge rail advocate. If done right! This isn't it. Rail works best when you can get anywhere you want, any time you want. Not just two or three places. In Europe (Germany, mainly), I traveled the entire country without once having to take a bus or taxi. Here we just put band aids on road congestion. There are many destinations here in Florida, that could, and would, benefit with a train station close to a tourist spot. Southwest Florida always gets the shaft. We could use a Southwest extension of the Turnpike too.

You think Southwest Florida gets the shaft? Look again: Northwest Florida never even gets poked!

Too much common sense on THIS end of the State to even contemplate "creating a "money pit" here (maybe we should borrow California's solution and divide Florida into TWO States, just at the northern border of Tampa (errr,...make that Orlando, while the "getting" is still good).

Barbara, your far left insults and complaints are laughable. The article clearly informs us that those states that fell for the scam and took the federal money cost their taxpayers billions. Go live in CA or IL We here in Florida prosper because of sound fiscal conservative Republicans like Gov Scott.

Really, Ms. Greenbarg, your personal characterization of me is incorrect and my concerns are not laughable. As it turns out I was involved at the time. The Governor's decision was not made in the interests of economic recovery and public convenience. It was political positioning. I hope the time has not arrived in our public discourse when we have to blindly accept every action of our leaders as brilliant. Even the actions of those we admire should remain subject to scrutiny. It's a shame we can't voice an informed opinion without name calling. Please don't be so quick to try to throw what you evidently believe are insults at those who have contrary opinions. The respectful expression of opinions is what has, in our history, been essential to our democracy. Your point about the experience of others states that took the stimulus funding for infrastructure purposes is worth noting but the point could also be made that how those states managed the funding and their projects is not necessarily how Florida would have. In other words, the funding source may not have been the issue and management and oversight might have. Finally, I was raised in Florida; graduated from college in Florida; and spent 40 years in service to the citizens of Florida. I have every right to voice my opinion without you trying to drive me out of my state....and you, Ms. Greenbarg are certainly entitled to do the same but, please, without descending into ugly rhetoric.

If it's handled like other endeavors of the Gov, it will be a GRAVY TRAIN for cronies, not high speed rail. Barb, are you aware of the hurricane debris removal fiasco Ricky imposed on the Florida Keys. Check out the Miami CBS Channel 4 expose by Jim Defede. We had 3 contractors under pre-storm contract to clear the county, Scott/FDOT stepped in and requested bids from 3 selected haulers with a bid due within 24 hours, basically handing contracts to 2 campaign contributors who charged far more than the prestorm contractors: $969 per appliance vs. $40 and $68 by the pre-contracted haulers. They couldn't work because the truckers were getting paid far more by FDOT. This agency has been so politicized it cannot be trusted. Our storm clean up took longer as a result, will cost $30 million more, and there is still much to be done. The report includes video from a county commission meeting where the mayor, Neugent (GOP) asks the county attorney if there isn't some way to get the state to stop its interference. When you compare the rates it sure looks like price gouging. Is this the kind of sound fiscal conservatism you like?

Sorry Charlotte, that leftist tirade was for you, not Barb.

Brilliant Idea! Now citizens and Floridians all along the I-4 Corridor can watch Baseball games as a Family Unit #funnsun #funnson #tampabayrays

Get a TV !

This was an early misstep by the Governor. We could literally be miles down the road on intercity passenger rail service had he not put political posturing ahead of practical economic recovery and citizen convenience. Try though he may to re-frame it, his initial action 8 years ago was a huge mistake. I have been a citizen victim of the outrageous traffic problems on I-4. He should have put the convenience of his citizens and local economic development ahead of political posturing. What a mistake.

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