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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

High-speed rail advocates say they have way to save project



High-speed rail advocates this morning outlined a plan to form a partnership of local governments that would assume responsibility for the project Gov. Rick Scott says he does not want.

"We are working together to keep the high-speed rail plans alive in Florida and keep the thousands of jobs right here in our state," U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said moments ago during a conference call.

Scott said yesterday he would be willing to look at a plan, but expressed doubts that it could alleviate any financial risk to taxpayers. The plan outlined this morning relies on state law allowing local governments to form coalitions (see legal memo attached).

The regional group, technically known as a "non recourse entity," would become a subgrantee to the state and receive the $2.4 billion in federal funding then put the project out to bid. Officials in Tampa, Orlando and Lakeland have expressed interest.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio stressed it would be a "privatized" project that does not carry financial cost. A bidder would have to guarantee to cover any cost overruns. "There is a way clear here," she said. The state would have to grant the new entity the right of way along the Orlando-Tampa route, and provide technical expertise.

The idea would fail without Scott's approval and partnership from the state DOT, Tampa city attorney Chip Fletcher conceded.

The plan is still being developed, and backers hope to have it before Scott in the next day or so.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson plans to press Scott again today at an event in Melbourne.


[Last modified: Monday, February 21, 2011 1:20pm]


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