TALLAHASSEE – Governor Rick Scott, who was one of his first officials to reject $ 2.4 billion in federal funding for a high-speed train from Orlando to Tampa, revealed Friday that a similar but privately funded project is on the table.
The Florida Department of Transportation received an unsolicited Brightline proposal in March to lease the right of way and build a high-speed line connecting Orlando and Tampa along Interstate 4.
Brightline is already building a railway line from Miami to Orlando, with a terminus at Orlando International Airport. The company received approval from Orange County leaders on Tuesday to lay tracks in wetlands for the project.
"As one of the fastest growing regions in the country, Tampa Bay is a natural extension for Brightline," said Patrick Goddard, Brightline's president and COO, in a statement. "We are currently involved in the [bidding] process, which is the first step toward extending the system to the Tampa Bay region."
To see if other companies might be interested in the Orlando-Tampa route, Scott DOT said the Central Florida Expressway Authority will make an offer for the project to be submitted within four months. The Brightline proposal did not include cost estimates.
Scott, in the midst of a heated US Senate campaign against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson of Orlando, stressed that the project would be fully funded by the private sector [1
Scott has declined in recent days from Democrats, including Nelson, for his decision to reject the high-speed rail fund 2011.
The news from his office that the project was back on hours after Nelson scolded Scott on Twitter for the move.
"I-4 traffic is bad, I officially call on Governor Scott to let us build high-speed trains," Nelson tweeted. "We would now travel between Orlando and Tampa at 180 mph if it had not thrown away $ 2.4 billion in 2011."
Scott said he refuses federal funding for the rail project because state taxpayers would fall by the wayside cost overruns. He was sued by two state senators – a Republican, a Democrat – but eventually won the lawsuit.
Scott pointed to the increased cost of a federal California rail project, which rose from $ 40 billion to $ 77 billion, and $ 560 million to state taxpayers in Connecticut for a high-speed train in that state.  Earlier Friday, the Democratic Party of Florida had circulated an editorial from the Hartford Courant thanking Scott Scott for rejecting federal funds that helped Connecticut build his line. 19659002] Hartford welcomes the new train, thanks to Governor Rick Scott »
Later the FDP called the train announcement an election year stunt by Scott.
"Rick Scott had a chance to build a high-speed rail line seven years ago, and Floridians – especially the residents and businesses along I-4 – have paid the price of Scott's selfish policy," said spokesman Nate Evans. "It's no surprise that – in an election year – Rick Scott says everything and does to get a promotion while Floridians stay in the dust."
On leaving the Gubernatorium, Orlando's Mayor Buddy Dyer said, "Orlando is a destination of choice for those who visit our world-class attractions, attend business meetings, or enjoy a weekend getaway create more jobs and experience our great city more easily. "
Dyer's office declined to comment.
Coworker Ryan Gillespie contributed to this report. [email protected] or (850) 222-5564
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