(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) With a week to save Florida's high-speed rail program, Florida congressman (and House Transportation Committee chair) John Mica is spending his President's Day weekend floating a plan that would shrink the project down to a 21 mile line linking the Orlando airport to Disney World.
Mica says this smaller program has the best chance of attracting riders and making a profit. It would also transfer "the project from the state to another entity."
Read Mica's proposal here or after the jump.
Mica Proposes Rescue Plan for Florida Rail Project
Washington, DC – With the deadline imposed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to secure a sub-grantee to assume the proposed rail line between Orlando and Tampa, U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) said he has completed his assessment of potential options to continue the project.
Based on the requirement to secure a sub-grantee and ensure that the project is on the soundest financial footing possible, he is exploring what he terms a “partial project rescue plan.”
Mica said, “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.”
To accomplish this new proposal, the project would be recast as follows:
· 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.
Mica said he has discussed the proposal with several of the potential partners and has solicited their response.
“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.”
This proposed phased development has the potential to address the Governor’s concerns by transferring the project from the state to another entity and limiting the scope of the project to the financially viable route to ensure maximum ridership, and provides for future expansion.