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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mica announces high-speed rail salvage plan



U.S. Rep. John Mica announced a plan to salvage high-speed rail in Florida late Friday by drastically scaling it back, cutting Hillsborough and Polk counties out of the mix, at least initially.

Mica, the Winter Park Republican who chairs the House transportation committee, is proposing to shrink the project to a 21-mile link between Orlando International Airport and the amusement parks of Disney World. The remainder of the original 84-mile route could be added on later.

Under Mica's proposal, Orange and Osceola counties and the city of Miami would take over responsibility for the project, which presumably would receive at least some portion of the original $2.4 billion in federal grant money set aside for the project.

The announcement comes two days after Gov. Rick Scott said he was turning down the federal grant money out of concern that Florida taxpayers would later be asked to bail out construction and operating cost overruns.

The shorter distance likely would take much of the high speed out of high-speed rail in Florida. The trains have to travel several miles to reach speeds reaching 160 mph or more and slow down well in advance of stops. But Mica said higher ridership projections for that segment, compared to the rest, should help alleviate concerns that taxpayers will get asked to subsidize construction and operating costs.

"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," Mica said in a statement.

[Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011 8:22pm]


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