Update, 5:00 PM Friday: Rick Scott’s office just issued a statement with the subject line “Rick Scott: My position remains the same on High Speed Rail.” Rather than saying he asked for more time to consider his options, he refers to LaHood’s decision to extend the deadline and says:
I believe High Speed Rail is a federal boondoggle, as I said more than a week ago. This morning I communicated to Secretary LaHood that as long as Florida remains on the hook for cost overruns, operating costs and paybacks in the case of default, I will vigorously oppose this project.
Since that time, Secretary LaHood has extended his own deadline for coming up with a way to alleviate Florida’s risk on High Speed Rail. While I appreciate his continued efforts to keep the project alive in Florida, it is important to note that I have yet to see any proposal that accomplishes my goal of eliminating risk to Florida’s taxpayers.
From earlier this afternoon:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has asked the Department of Transportation for additional time to reconsider his decision to return $2.4 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail in the state.
Scott was given an extension last week by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, while the two parties worked on ways to minimize the risk involved for the state of Florida. The governor had been given one week to reconsider his decision, one that was criticized by fellow Florida Republican John Mica, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
According to reports from a local newspaper, state transportation officials have floated the idea of making Amtrak or a private company responsible for any potential cost over-runs, one of the concerns cited by Gov. Scott in his refusal last week.
LaHood made the following statement this afternoon on the situation:
“This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project that will create jobs and economic development for the entire state of Florida. He asked me for additional information about the state’s role in this project, the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as how the state would be protected from liability. I have decided to give Governor Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami, and to consult with his staff at the state Department of Transportation. He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.”
Rep. Mica released a statement expressing his support for the continued talks:
“I am pleased an agreement has been reached between Governor Scott and Secretary LaHood to extend the timeframe for consideration of additional alternatives for the Florida rail project. I hope a sub-grantee arrangement can be structured that will salvage part or all of the project in a viable way that will protect Florida taxpayers from financial risk.”
In a previous statement, LaHood had said Florida’s money would be transferred to other states. The high-speed rail line would have connected Tampa at Orlando and would be the nation’s first, true high-speed rail line.