High-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando could soon be a reality

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-22 23:20:11-04

TAMPA, Fla. — On Friday, Governor Rick Scott announced that the Florida Department of Transportation is taking bids to fund a new high-speed train that would connect Tampa and Orlando.

Governor Scott stated that FDOT and the Central Florida Expressway Authority received a private proposal to lease property owned by the state and CFX to build the track along Interstate 4. Based on the unsolicited proposal, FDOT is allowing other private investors to also apply to fund the high-speed rail.

Brightline, the high-speed rail linking Miami and West Palm Beach, said it has put in a bid to build track along I-4. The company said in a statement:

“As one of the nation’s fastest growing regions, Tampa Bay is a natural extension for 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.” – Patrick Goddard, President and COO of Brightline

In 2011, Governor Scott rejected more than $2 billion in federal funds for a similar project because it would have exposed Florida taxpayers to millions of dollars of costs for decades.

"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," Governor Scott said in a statement. "Through private investment, we ensure that this major project has zero financial risk to Florida taxpayers.”

“Whether it’s visiting our pristine beaches or catching a game, adding safe and affordable private passenger rail service will provide a needed alternative for those wanting to spend time in Tampa," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "Establishing private passenger rail service enables more public transportation options while creating jobs and reducing congestion on our roadways.”

    Many local residents believe that the rail will ease travel between Tampa and Orlando.

 "Eliminate some of the traffic issues we're having and also make it easier for families to get over there and get back here," said Keshia Gabriel, a Florida resident.

"There has been a bit of a parking issue, we've noticed down here. I think that transit would be a lot easier for us," said Tim Nutt who is visiting from Ohio with his wife. 

Interested parties who wish to privately fund this project will have 120 days to submit proposals after the Request for Proposals is released.