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    2 make short list to build high-speed rail

    The state rail authority has narrowed the list of applicants competing to build the Tampa-

    ©Associated Press
    April 18, 2003


    TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida High Speed Rail Authority narrowed the list of applicants to build the first leg of the bullet train system to two Thursday, eliminating two it deemed inadequate.

    Meanwhile, there were indications that the authority's relationship with Florida's new transportation secretary is off to a rough start.

    The authority accepted a staff recommendation to reject the applications of et3.com and Georgia Monorail Consortium as not responsive to bid specifications.

    That leaves Fluor-Bombardier and Global Rail Consortium still in the hunt for a contract to build the $2-billion link in the system from Tampa to Orlando.

    A constitutional amendment approved by voters requires the state to build a high-speed rail system that will serve the state's five largest urban areas, also including Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Nazih Haddad, authority executive director, said et3.com and Georgia Monorail proposed using technologies not yet developed, and neither had demonstrated the financial strength to carry out the project.

    Et3.com proposed to transport trains in a vacuum tube, propelled by magnetic levitation. Georgia Monorail proposed a new-generation monorail that had never been built.

    After the authority approved a resolution thanking former Transportation Secretary Tom Barry for his participation on the board, chairman Fred Dudley remarked that the newly appointed secretary, Jose Abreu, did not appear friendly to the high-speed rail concept. Abreu automatically becomes a member of the high-speed rail board.

    Gov. Jeb Bush, who appointed Abreu, opposes the system and has urged the Legislature to propose a constitutional amendment to repeal the one requiring it to be built.

    Dudley said that at Abreu's confirmation hearing before a Senate committee, he pandered to members who oppose the system.

    "He didn't understand the issue and yet he chose to take a position before a committee that had the ability to vote yes or no on his confirmation," Dudley said.

    "I'm not going to be happy with him on this committee as an ex-officio member with that kind of an attitude."

    Dick Kane, a spokesman for Abreu, said the transportation secretary merely responded to a question from a senator who asked his personal opinion on the train, replying that he did not think it was an efficient use of the public's money.

    But Abreu added, Kane said, that "it doesn't matter what I think. The law is the law and we must move forward."

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