LAKELAND, FL (February 24, 2011) - We are truly disappointed in Governor Rick Scott’s decision to return federal high speed rail funding before allowing us the opportunity to hear the valuable feedback needed to make a sound business decision from those that would operate and maintain the system.
We were counting on not only the vendor operators but other members in the private sector to deploy their innovation, technology and capital investments in our state to help us resolve our long term transportation challenges while reducing our current over-dependence on tax payer resources.
There has been a great deal of regional visioning and substantial research work through business and citizen led groups such as MyRegion.org of the Central Florida Partnership and One Bay of the Tampa Bay Partnership. They have engaged citizens and leaders from throughout 14 counties spanning across the "I-4 Corridor" and transportation concerns are salient through this collaborative research.
In order for us to remain competitive in the future, maintain a great quality of life, attract tourists and provide an environment where businesses can grow and prosper, Florida can’t continue doing what we have always done in our transportation infrastructure delivery.
It is time for a new way of thinking. The United States is known as the innovators around the globe. However, we are the only industrialized country in the world that does not have high speed rail. This was our chance to showcase Florida with the technological advances in transportation with a public/private partnership that would assist the growth and development needs of our state.
There were a number of key players that came together to address the Governor’s concerns regarding subsidies and ridership numbers. I think we sufficiently addressed the issues responsibly and in concert with the business community. I would like to personally thank all those parties that swiftly teamed to save high speed rail in Florida including those at the State and Federal level. The formation of the I-4 Super Region was evident when Tampa’s Mayor Pam Iorio, Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa City Attorney Chip Fletcher, special counsel to Orlando Bill Peebles and Lakeland’s team all came together proving that communities can bond for a common cause. The group helped draft an agreement that would create an independent agency that would ultimately transfer all operational and ownership risks to the private firm that was the successful bidder for the high speed rail project.
Once again, we are disappointed and a number of people including FDOT factually met the issues raised by Governor Scott that would shift liability to the owner/operator of the system. The challenge of efficiently moving people and goods in our state is still there and we will need to continue working together toward a common goal in making Florida the best place to live, work and play.