High speed rail contracts delayed
With Governor-elect Rick Scott raising questions about the cost of high speed rail, a contract to start work on the project has been delayed. Plans called for advertising a $70 million contract to prepare the I-4 median for the line connecting Tampa to Orlando on Nov. 15. The project would have created about 2,000 jobs starting in March. But the advertising date has been delayed until early next year.
Meanwhile, the Florida Rail Enterprise is still working on documents requesting qualifications and proposals from private companies for construction of the line. The federal government has awarded Florida most of the money needed to build the connection. Written proposals from bid teams should answer some of Scott's questions about whether the private sector would be willing to absorb possible construction cost overruns and assume risks relating to revenue and ridership, said Nazih Haddad, chief operating officer of the Florida Rail Enterprise.
Seven teams from around the world have expressed interest in the project. Some of the big names on those teams include Cintra, Amtrak, Hyundai, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Siemens and Richard Branson's Virgin Rail Group. According to notes from meetings with bid teams last month, many of the groups are willing to assume ridership risk in exchange for the opportunity to build the United States' first high speed rail line. The FDOT has a ridership study from 2002, but all the teams said they planned to do their own studies. One concern expressed by the teams: The 100 percent Buy American requirement for trains. Most said 60 percent was a more realistic goal.