High speed rail ally complicates project – Political Insider

For all they disagree about, high speed rail supporters and opponents agree on one thing for sure: they have no idea what John Mica is doing.

Mica, a Republican Congressman from central Florida, is likely to be the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, a key role in determining if future transportation dollars will go to high speed rail.

For conservatives opposed to high speed rail, Mica has long been one of their enemies.

“He’s been deep in the tank for high speed rail for a long time,” said Ronald Utt, the transportation policy expert at The Heritage Foundation.

Yet, Mica earlier this month publicly questioned the viability of the Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line and suggested the money could be more useful going to the northeast where high speed rail would have more riders.

His comments come as Republican leaders in at least three other states are threatening to kill rail projects that once were supported in their states. Check out my story in today’s H-T for more about how Florida’s high speed rail project is at a critical crossroads.

Utt said his comments were a complete shock. He said his hope is that maybe conservatives have finally showed Mica that high speed rail is too costly and cannot pay for itself. Utt said he would not be surprised if Mica is trying to prove his credentials to a Tea Party movement that just scored several major victories in Florida.

But just as Mica was questioning those rail lines, he issued a letter on Nov. 8 to Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos reaffirming his support for rail.

“I continue to be a strong supporter of advance passenger rail service in Florida and for systems across out nation,” Mica said in a letter that was read to attendees of a high speed rail conference in Orlando.

Mica has yet to return my calls to talk about where he really stands on the issue.

State Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican and strong supporter of high speed rail, said she thinks Mica is on their team, but admits to being a little confused with his position now given his comments.

She said Mica is a big reason why the high speed rail project from Tampa to Orlando has been able to get the funding it has from the federal government – about $2 billion already.

View the original article here

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