Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mitch Perry Report 7-8-14 : The Scott administration feels the heat regarding All Aboard Florida

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 9:04 AM

click to enlarge All-Aboard-Florida_-Map_Web.png
All Aboard Florida is the ostensibly private rail project running from Orlando to Miami that is supported by Governor Rick Scott. But initially it won't be going that far. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the passenger rail service will initially run only between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in late 2016.

Back in February it was reported that Scott's decision to spend more than $200 million in state money on a train depot at Orlando International Airport to connect with All Aboard Florida would benefit the company that once employed his current chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth.

A new story in the Naples News by reporter Matt Dixon over the weekend pushed that story further, saying Hollingsworth was able to influence Scott into rejecting the $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for that high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando, in order to support the project that would benefit Hollingsworth's former company, Parallel Infrastructure.

Last night the state's Department of Transportation rebuked that train of thought, releasing a statement that said that the $213 million is funding for the Orlando airport, not for All Aboard Florida. The statement went on to say that "it's a project that the state is helping fund [that] has been planned by the airport since the 1990s.The facility is being built as an intermodal center that includes parking, rental car and rail – it is not simply a station for All Aboard Florida." And "the facility will be built regardless of whether the All Aboard Florida rail proposal ever comes to fruition."

But the project is still seeking $1.5 billion in federal loans, so it isn't exactly a privately funded project, despite being touted as such by Scott. It's a curious paradox: He refused to accept federal funding for the Tampa/Orlando high-speed rail project because he said that Floridians might be forced to pay for cost overruns, and so it wasn't coming completely free. But now he seems to be okay with seeking federal funds for another rail project — the main difference being that this one would apparently benefit a company that employed his chief of staff.

Meanwhile, Governor Scott was in Tampa yesterday morning, where he kicked off the "tough on crime" portion of his re-election campaign. ...at the same time, Charlie Crist was airing his campaign's first television commercial.

You've heard this a thousand times before, but tensions are building in the Middle East between the Israelis and Palestinians. Somewhat incredibly, Tampa teenager Tariq Abu Khdei has become part of the saga. Yesterday, family members and friends said the 15-year-old is a normal American teenager who likes basketball and Xbox, and disputed the notion that he created trouble that led the Israeli police to attack him.

And for those of you looking forward to Tampa's bike share program, it's now supposed to launch next month.

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