Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida's rail hopes end as Amtrak drops out of potential bid

WASHINGTON — After spending weeks on life support, Florida's high-speed rail project came to a definitive halt Friday when Amtrak officials told Sen. Bill Nelson they will not pursue a bullet train in the state.

The reason: There's not enough time.

The company said it could not meet the April 4 deadline set by the federal government for applications for $2.4 billion in federal money it had planned to award Florida before Gov. Rick Scott turned it away last month. Scott said he believed the project would be a burden on Florida taxpayers.

Rail advocates had hoped Amtrak and a coalition of local governments, including Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Miami, could attempt to win the funds to build an 84-mile line between Tampa and Orlando.

Now even Nelson, who called the plan a "Hail Mary" pass, says rail is dead.

"Sadly, Florida's $2.4 billion is going to go to some other state," Nelson said. "That was 90 percent of the cost of the construction of the first leg of high-speed rail in Florida."

It was Nelson who pressed the U.S. Department of Transportation to keep the door open for Florida even after the governor rejected the money on Feb. 16. And even after state Sens. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, lost a Florida Supreme Court lawsuit arguing Scott overstepped his executive authority with the decision.

Other factors also made the desperate attempt to save the project impossible.

Tampa voters will elect a new mayor Tuesday, and Mayor Pam Iorio leaves office April 1. She said it wouldn't be fair to try to slap something together when the city is in transition.

"The new mayor has to be very much invested in this and play the part in forming the entity," she said. "There's just not enough time for something this complex."

Plus, Iorio said, the entity still would need cooperation from Scott.

"There's still the overarching issue, that even if the entity was formed and Amtrak did want to get involved, would the Florida Department of Transportation be given the green light to work with us? Probably not," Iorio said. "That remained a very large stumbling block."

Nelson said he hopes the state Legislature, where support for rail exists among Democrats and some Republicans, will pass granting authority over the right-of-way for the proposed Orlando-Tampa route to the coalition, taking control away from the state and Scott.

"There is continuing money for high-speed rail that will be available over the next several years," Nelson said, adding Amtrak president Joseph H. Boardman told him he is still interested in pursuing a future project with the coalition of cities.

Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263. Alex Leary can be reached at [email protected] or (202) 306-4807.

Florida's rail hopes end as Amtrak drops out of potential bid 03/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 11:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Guest column: Girl Scouts designed to help girls excel on their own terms


    This column was written to coincide with the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11. It comes on the heels of an announcement from the Boy Scouts of America that the organization will begin accepting girls.

    Girl Scouts like these, earning a patch at the Medical Center of Trinity earlier this year, are exposed to the best leadership experience in the world, says Jessica Muroff, who runs the organization locally. [Times files]
  2. Recall petition targets two Madeira Beach commissioners

    Local Government

    MADEIRA BEACH — A petition to recall two commissioners who won their seats in a highly contested election in March began circulating in the city last week.

    John Douthirt
  3. Trigaux: Amid wealth inequality, is middle class losing habit of giving to charities?


    In the slow economic recovery since the nasty recession a decade ago, researchers are wondering if the hard times back then broke middle class America's habit of charitable giving.

    Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife and fellow doctor Pallavi Patel rank among the most generous philanthropists in the Tampa Bay area in recent decades. Their most recent giving: a $200 million pledge, consisting of a $50 million gift to Nova Southeastern University, plus $150 million to buy and build a Nova-affiliated medical education complex in Clearwater. The Patels also have given considerable sums to the University of South Florida and area hospitals. In this 2014 photo, the couple pose for pictures on the green carpet prior to a 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards event in Tampa. [Times file photo]
  4. The celebrities who have said #MeToo about sexual assault and harassment


    #YouToo have seen #MeToo.

    Stories of sexual harassment and assault have dominated the cultural conversation for the past week. Hundreds of thousands of women have taken to social media to share that they have been harassed or assaulted by men. Celebrities have used their platforms to hold men accountable for …

    CHUCK GONZALES   |   Special to the Times
  5. Bahá'i faith celebrates 200th anniversary of birth of divine messenger Bahá'u'lláh


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — Farah Khorsandian-Sanchez was born to Iranian parents in India, in a Bahá'í home. Her husband was born in Spain, grew up in Venezuela and is Catholic.

    Patrick Norado (left), Thomas Alexander and Sepideh Eskandari talk after praying at the St. Petersburg Baha'i Center in St. Petersburg on Saturday. A group on Saturday gathered to study the teachings of the Baha'i faith.EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times