Not so fast, young man

The chairman of the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee supports rail. Just don’t call it ‘high-speed’ to his face.

One often hears that the public and the private sectors speak a different language. Judging by an interesting exchange at a Congressional hearing in New York last month, there may be truth to that adage.
Kent Rowey, head of law firm Freshfields’ Americas Energy and Infrastructure practice, went before the House Transportation Committee in January to give the private sector’s perspective on high-speed rail. Rowey politely introduced himself and explained that his firm was advising on the Tampa, Florida “high-speed rail” project.
“No, no, don’t start telling people that it’s a high-speed rail! It is not. It’s a snail-speed train,” committee chair John Mica interrupted before Rowey could say another word. Laughter erupted from the audience as Mica, who represents Florida’s 7th district, highlighted that 21 miles of the proposed 84-mile line has “potential for success”.
“But don’t come and call it a high-speed rail… You didn’t start on a good note,” Mica admonished, asking Rowey to restrict himself to discussing the avenues for private capital to participate in the project.
“I didn’t mean to discredit myself at the outset by mentioning high-speed rail,” Rowey said.
“You are forgiven,” Mica replied.
Scarcely two weeks later, Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail assistance. True to his word, Mica issued a press release proposing a rescue plan for the “Florida rail project” (no mention of high speed).