Promising to cut through the permitting red tape, U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL) is putting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on notice this week that he expects the agency to fast track the approval of permits for privately sponsored passenger rail service over an existing rail corridor and transportation right-of-way between Miami and Orlando.
In a letter today to Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo Ellen Darcy, Mica followed up on discussions with the Corps in Washington and Jacksonville about shrinking the approval schedule and expediting the private sector rail project.
"With the right-of-way already in place there is no reason to drag this out," Mica said. "This should not be a bureaucratic process. Imagine the government actually acting quickly to put people to work, expand private investment in a billion-dollar infrastructure project, and get cars off our congested highways."
Mica recently met with Corps of Engineers officials to discuss fast forwarding the required environmental reviews that will allow the project to proceed, and work on a plan that could bring the route into service by early 2015. Mica expects the Corps' environmental review and permitting process to be completed within 12 months, since the planned route travels over an existing rail right-of-way and other existing transportation corridors.
The "All Aboard Florida" passenger rail project sponsored by Florida East Coast Industries will provide frequent service between Orlando and Miami. The 230-mile distance will be covered in approximately three hours at speeds of up to 110 mph.
"Hopefully we can fast forward this private sector passenger rail project that will not cost the taxpayers a penny," added Mica, who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. "Restoring passenger rail service along this historic corridor will bring an economic boost to Florida's East Coast and the Orlando area, and will do so without any federal grants and without leaving Florida taxpayers on the hook."