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Gov. Bush asks high-speed rail authority to disband

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on December 7.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Now that Gov. Jeb Bush has succeeded in getting voters to repeal the high-speed rail project they approved in 2000, he wants the panel overseeing the train venture to close up shop.

Bush made that request in a letter faxed Wednesday to C.C. "Doc" Dockery, the Lakeland businessman who got the high-speed train measure on the ballot four years ago.

Dockery is also a member of the Florida High Speed Rail Authority that lawmakers created in 2001 to oversee the train project.

"Passage of constitutional amendment 6 on November 2 removed the mandate for developing and operating a high-speed rail system," Bush wrote. "Therefore, I ask the Authority to conclude its work and execute agreements to transfer remaining activities to the Department of Transportation."

Not so fast, Dockery said in his response.

Passage of the repeal measure last month doesn't impact the state law that created the authority, Dockery wrote back.

"In my humble opinion, it would be a violation of Florida law for us to attempt to comply with your request," Dockery wrote.

The authority was scheduled to meet Thursday. When it met in mid-November, a week after nearly 64 percent of voters supported the repeal measure, authority members said the vote has not killed the project.

Instead, they said, the vote was a cue for freer thinking.

And a key lawmaker, state Sen. Jim Sebesta, a St. Petersburg Republican who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he wants the work to continue.

Since the project's initial approval in 2000, no construction had begun but a route and contractor were selected. The system's first leg - Orlando to Tampa - was forecast to cost $2.3 billion.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

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