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Despite the timing, Tampa, Orlando mayors say they knew about rail project hours earlier

The announcement of high-speed rail between the two cities came just 24 minutes after Scott's Senate opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, complained about it in a tweet.
Published Jun. 26, 2018
Updated Jun. 26, 2018

For about 20 minutes on Friday, it looked like Sen. Bill Nelson had a pretty good dig at Gov. Rick Scott, his Republican opponent in the Senate race.

On Friday afternoon, apparently sitting in traffic on I-4, the senator tried to blame Scott for his freeway woes.

"On I-4. Traffic is bad," Nelson tweeted. "Again, I am officially calling on Gov. Scott to let us build high-speed rail. We would be riding at 180 mph between Orlando and Tampa right now had he not turned away $2.4 billion in 2011."

Twenty-four minutes later, Scott answered Nelson's call, announcing a potential high-speed rail project linking Orlando and Tampa.

Never mind that Scott killed off a similar rail project just weeks after becoming governor. The timing of Friday's announcement was so peculiar that some people suspected politics were at play.

Not quite, according to the offices of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who were both quoted in Scott's press release.

Spokespeople for the two Democratic mayors said that while the mayors had known about the proposed rail line for months, the governor's office didn't tell them until mid-day Friday that they were making the announcement.

"We knew Friday that that's when they were going to release it," Buckhorn spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said. "We obviously didn't know what time they were going to do it."

Brightline, the company behind the rail proposal, formally pitched it to the Florida Department of Transportation three months ago.

Why wait so long for an announcement? According to an FDOT spokesman, evaluating the bid and drafting a request for competing proposals was "very complicated" and required months of work.

All of it coming together just minutes after an unfortunately-timed tweet.

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