Tallahassee, Fla. — The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has begun the process to allow for private investment in a high-speed rail connection from Orlando to Tampa. FDOT and the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) received an unsolicited proposal to lease property owned by the state and CFX to build a high-speed train along Interstate 4.
Brightline, which is currently building out high-speed rail service between Miami and Orlando, confirmed that it submitted the unsolicited proposal to lease state-owned right of way to extend its service from Orlando to Tampa.
“As one of the nation’s fastest growing regions, Tampa Bay is a natural extension for Brightline,” said Patrick Goddard, president and COO of Brightline. “Our state’s residents, visitors and economy will benefit tremendously from a fully connected passenger rail system that includes our current operations in South Florida and our future line to Orlando. We are currently engaged in the RFP process, which is the first step needed to extend the system to the Tampa Bay region.” Based on the unsolicited proposal, FDOT, on behalf of the state and CFX, is initiating an open, transparent procurement process so any interested private entities may apply. The request is for those interested in leasing FDOT and CFX owned rights-of-way to establish privately funded passenger rail service between Orlando and Tampa.
Governor Scott said, “This is an exciting opportunity for Orlando, Tampa and our entire state, said Governor Rick Scott. “When I became governor, the Obama administration was trying to use federal taxpayer dollars to pay for a rail connection that had an extremely high risk of overspending taxpayer dollars with no guarantee of economic growth. This is exactly what we’re seeing in California, a state which took this bad deal from Obama, and in Connecticut where taxpayers had to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for their rail line. Instead of placing taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, our goal is for the private sector to invest in this project. Through private investment, we ensure that this major project has zero financial risk to Florida taxpayers.”
FDOT Secretary Mike Dew said, “The department is committed to creating a robust transportation system that meets Florida’s current and future needs. Privately-funded passenger rail will provide residents and visitors a transportation choice for one of the busiest corridors in the state.”
In 2011, Governor Scott rejected more than $2 billion in federal funds for a taxpayer-funded 84-mile government train from Tampa to Orlando because the project would have exposed Florida taxpayers to millions of dollars of costs for decades. In other states that accepted funding, there were cost overruns and ongoing operation and maintenance costs. The State of California accepted federal funding for a project that current estimates indicate will experience significant cost overruns, with costs rising from approximately $33 billion to potentially $98.1 billion and with the hope of limited service beginning in 2027. In Connecticut, state taxpayers had to pay more than $560 million for their new government train.
Private intercity passenger rail service has been constructed and is currently being operated in Florida at no cost to taxpayers. This Request for Proposals (RFP) will provide an opportunity for the private sector to expand privately funded passenger rail service in the state at a zero risk to Florida taxpayers, FDOT said. Interested parties will have 120 days to submit proposals after the RFP is released.