In November of 2000, the Florida voters approved an amendment to the State constitution mandating the construction of a High Speed Transportation system for the State. The amendment requires the use of train technologies that operate at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour and consist of dedicated rails or guideways separated from motor vehicle traffic. The high speed rail system is to link the five largest urban areas in Florida, and construction was mandated to begin by November 1, 2003.
In March 2001, the Florida Legislature enacted the Florida High Speed Rail Authority Act and created the Florida High Speed Rail Authority. The Act set forth that there would be a nine member Board made of three appointments each by the Governor, the Speaker of the Florida House, and the President of the Florida Senate. Since the creation of the Authority, an annual report of their actions, findings and recommendations has been issued to the Governor and the Legislature. Each report can be found in the Resource Library.
In its early stages of operation, the Authority established a Vision Plan for a statewide High Speed Rail system, conducted preliminary assessments, and began the Project Development and Environment Study for the initial system segment.
In October 2002, the Authority issued a Request for Proposal to Design, Build, Operate, Maintain and Finance (DBOM&F) the first phase of the project from Tampa to Orlando. The Authority received four proposals in February 2003, two of which were rejected as being non-responsive. The two remaining proposals, from Fluor Bombardier and Global Rail Consortium, each demonstrating strong private sector interest, were reviewed further. After an extensive review of the proposals, the Authority ranked the Fluor Bombardier (FB) proposal first and the Global Rail Consortium (GRC) proposal second at the October 2003 board meeting.
Based on these proposals, the cost of this initial phase is approximately $2.4 billion. Both proposals offer private equity contributions to support operations of the system and show willingness of the private sector to share risk associated with projected ridership revenues.
At the same October 2003 meeting, and subject to the development of acceptable agreements with The Walt Disney World Company (WDW) and the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA), the Authority identified the preferred route for the system. The route begins near the Tampa Central Business District (along I-275) traveling towards I-4 where it continues in the median of I-4 to the SR 417 (GreeneWay) in Orlando and into the Orlando International Airport .
Negotiation discussions with the Fluor Bombardier team began just after the ranking and continued throughout much of 2004. In addition, discussions were held with WDW and with OOCEA while the PD&E process continued with the further development of the Environmental Impact Statement.
Also in 2004, GRC representatives provided information to the Authority indicating its ability to contribute equity to the project that would reduce the State’s investment. The Authority received this information, but it requires additional information to undertake a thorough review of the GRC plan. The Authority directed that the information provided by GRC be included in the 2005 Report to the Governor and the Legislature.
In early 2004, Governor Jeb Bush endorsed an effort to repeal the 2000 amendment that mandated the construction of the High Speed Rail System. In November 2004, an amendment to repeal the 2000 amendment was approved by the voters, resulting in removal of the constitutional mandate. Although the amendment has been repealed, the Florida High Speed Rail Authority Act is still in effect pending any action that the Florida Legislature may choose to take in the future. (To date, the Legislature has taken no action to change the plans for deployment of the high speed transportation system.)
In November of 2004, the Authority determined that satisfactory progress had not been achieved on the agreements with WDW and OOCEA. Consequently, the Authority took action to re-designate a portion of the preferred route from the Central Florida GreeneWay (SR 417) to the Beeline (now called Beachline) (SR 528), eliminating the need for the agreements noted. In addition, the Authority determined that it is in the best interest of the State to complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement and to seek a Record of Decision for the initial segment of the project and took action to authorize the necessary funds to undertake that work.
Throughout 2004, the Authority made findings and recommendations, including the continued acknowledgement that there is strong private interest in the project evidenced by both FB and GRC, that public and private financial contributions are necessary and that public funding should be strongly pursued. Furthermore, the Authority noted that High Speed Rail can be part of a balanced transportation system for the State of Florida, and that High Speed Rail can produce significant economic benefits.
In 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement. To date, no action has been taken relative to the Record of Decision.
Since its inception, the Florida High Speed Rail Authority has developed a strategic plan for high speed rail for the State of Florida, has undertaken the PD&E process for the initial Tampa – Orlando segment, has conducted a planning study for the Orlando – Miami segment, and has undertaken a procurement process for the initial implementation of the system. The Authority has used its available funds judiciously and efficiently in the furtherance of its work, and all of the Authority’s activities have been accomplished within established budgets.
The Authority has operated with funds derived from appropriations by the State of Florida and specific earmarks provided by the U.S. Congress. In fiscal year 2004/05, and in the subsequent fiscal years, no State funds were appropriated, and the Authority has operated on surplus funds from previous years.