Lawmakers try to save Florida high speed rail project

Rendering of possible Tampa high speed rail station.

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: In Florida the battle doesn't have to do with unions. It has to do with high speed rail. The state's Republican Governor Rick Scott announced this week he was sending $2.4 billion in high speed rail money back to the federal government. But now, an influential group of lawmakers is trying to salvage the Tampa to Orlando rail line.

From the transportation nation public radio project at WNYC, Andrea Bernstein reports.


ANDREA BERNSTEIN: One of the people caught off guard was John Mica, the Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee.

JOHN MICA: I was taken aback. I had about 15 or 20 minutes to argue my points.

He wants to give the private sector a chance to complete the rail line.

MICA: No risk to the taxpayers. No additional cost to the state of Florida.

At least eight groups have expressed interest in paying the $300 million needed to complete the line, plus any cost overruns. Democratic Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says responsibility for the project would be transferred from the state of Florida to another public agency.

BILL NELSON: We are looking at several. Amtrak is one.

But the money would come from international construction firm. They want to get in on the beginning of what may be a much longer rail line that extends to Miami. The U.S. Department of Transportation says the Congress members have a week to put together a deal, or the $2.4 billion goes elsewhere. New York and California are clamoring for the money.

I'm Andrea Bernstein for Marketplace.

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