The refusal of incoming governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to accept federal money for high-speed rail in those states could close a funding gap in Florida’s construction of a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando.
The U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Thursday that $1.19 billion in high-speed rail funding for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to more than a dozen states, including $342.3 million to Florida. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s statement on the reallocation of funding is here.
The announcement comes as plans for the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line have come under fire since the Nov. 2 elections, even as surveying work on the project is already underway along the I-4 corridor.
After the Republican sweep of the U.S. House, incoming transportation committee chairman John Mica, R-Winter Park, questioned whether the line would be profitable, and also stated the project should perhaps be scaled back to just serve the Orlando area, cutting out Tampa.
After LaHood’s announcement, Mica said the increased funding should ensure the project will be completed, but he still remained skeptical about Tampa’s role in the rail line.
The failure Nov. 2 of a transportation tax referendum that would have funded light rail in Hillsborough County to connect to the high-speed rail line still appears to be a concern for the congressman, according to the following statement Mica released after LaHood’s announcement:
While passenger levels on the new rail system from the Orlando Airport to the tourist area and Disney World are expected to produce substantial revenue, and while today’s announcement should ensure construction of the entire system, passenger service to Tampa may need to be added incrementally as the Tampa Bay area develops a future fixed transit regional distribution system.