Federal officials have given high-speed rail supporters in Florida until Friday to come up with a way to save the project. They're working on a way to hand it over to local governments, but it appears they'll still have to satisfy Gov. Rick Scott at least on some level.
Here in Tallahassee, pro-rail lawmakers are working behind the scenes to both go around and appease Gov. Scott, and we now know roughly how they plan to do it.
Senate Majority Leader and Orlando Republican Andy Gardiner tells me rail supporters are assembling a coalition made up of the cities of Orlando, Lakeland and Tampa. Gardiner and his colleagues are hammering out a plan to work around the big obstacle... that's the right of way, which is still under control of the governor.
“I would think that there are inter-local agreements that DOT could potentially relieve themselves of that right-of-way and provide it to that local consortium,” Gardiner said.
We're hearing federal DOT leaders could be flying to Florida as soon as Tuesday to meet with stakeholders including the governor. Ultimately, he'd have to make the call on the right of way, and the folks here are under no pretenses that could be quite the challenge.
Also Monday, one panhandle republican lawmaker pulled out of a group letter to transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Senator Greg Evers says he now thinks the proposed high-speed rail project is a "boondoggle".