Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced late last week that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) have begun the process to consider proposals from private operators to build and operate a high-speed rail line along state owned property between Orlando and Tampa.
FDOT kicked off the process after receiving an unsolicited proposal from private passenger-rail operator Brightline, which proposed to build and operate the line along the CFX right of way. As a result of Brightline's proposal, the FDOT has initiated an open procurement process so that any private entities may apply.
"The department is committed to creating a robust transportation system that meets Florida's current and future needs," said FDOT Secretary Mike Drew in a press release. "Privately funded passenger rail will provide residents and visitors a transportation choice for one of the busiest corridors in the state."
Scott noted that early in his tenure he sent back $2 billion in federal funds from the Obama administration that would have funded the construction of a high-speed rail line between the two cities. But that project would have had "an extremely high risk of overspending taxpayer dollars with no guarantee of economic growth," the governor said in the press release.
Brightline operates a high-speed passenger-rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach. The company plans to expand to Orlando International Airport by January 2021.
Late last week, Brightline President Patrick Goddard said in a prepared statement that the route to Tampa would be a "natural extension" for the railroad.
"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," said Goddard, according to TCPalm.com.