Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he is "deeply disappointed" at Wednesday's decision by Gov. Rick Scott to stop a major high-speed passenger rail program backed by big federal grants.
"I am deeply disappointed in the decision to not move forward with the Orlando to Tampa passenger rail project," Mica said in a statement supplied by his spokesman. "This is a huge setback for the state of Florida, our transportation, economic development and important tourism industry."
Scott said he feared that accepting $2.4 billion in grants to build an 84-mile bullet train service - the first leg of a system that would eventually reach Miami -- could leave state taxpayers stuck with up to $3 billion in cost overruns.
He urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood instead to put the money into port and highway projects.
But LaHood said his team already required private companies in the project to absorb potential cost overruns and operating expenses and that other states will want Florida's rail money.
Scott joins new Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio who earlier halted intercity rail projects, and LaHood has already redirected $1.2 billion from those states to other rail applicants.
Mica has been a critic of the Obama rail plan investing heavily in slow-speed Amtrak service, and favors giving private investors a chance to help build or operate true high-speed passenger rail systems.
His committee will soon write its own multi-year surface transportation legislation and try to put its own stamp on passenger rail programs.
In the wake of Scott's announcement today, Mica said "I have urged the governor to reconsider going forward and allow the private sector to assume the risk and any future costs for the project. I made this appeal to the governor this morning. With the federal government assuming 90 percent of the cost of the project, I am disappointed the private sector will not have an opportunity to even offer innovative proposals to help finance the balance of the costs and to construct and operate this system."
Mica also said he will "continue to work with the governor and all those interested in developing cost-effective, 21st Century transportation alternatives for Florida and the nation, with systems that can improve quality of life and help meet our future transportation needs."
-- Contact John D. Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.