BRADENTON, Fla. — Although Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott has yet to take a position on the fate of high-speed rail, the state agency overseeing the project is moving toward seeking qualified consortiums to build the $2.6 billion Tampa-to-Orlando line.

The Florida Rail Enterprise, a division of the state Department of Transportation, had projected in a draft request for qualifications that it might release the final RFQ Tuesday. Because comments received during an industry forum in Orlando last month are still under review, the RFQ is expected to be released by the end of the year, said agency spokesman Dick Kane.

“We’re still looking at [forum] feedback as we go through the procurement process and still coordinating with the Federal Railroad Administration,” he said.

The industry forum drew more than 1,800 individuals and representatives of firms interested in the project. To date, at least eight teams or consortiums have emerged as potential bidders on the public-private partnership concession that will be used to build, finance, and operate it.

According to the draft RFQ, the successful bidder must have “proven ability working with the federal authorities on grant-financed projects, arranging and closing private financing on terms favorable to the state, as well as demonstrated skill in designing, building, operating, and maintaining complex [high-speed rail] systems on behalf of public-sector owners.”

The state plans to select three or four consortiums early next year that will be asked to submit bids for the 85-mile-long concession contract. It will require the eventual concessionaire to obtain up-front financing for a portion of the project’s cost that will be repaid through a combination of federal and state sources and passenger revenues. The federal government has said it will pay for about 90% of the project while the state will pay 10%.

Meanwhile, there has been speculation about whether Scott would join other newly elected Republican governors who have talked about killing high-speed rail in their states. If those projects don’t move forward, the states that balk would be required to return any federal funds they received for them.

“Governor-elect Scott supports transportation infrastructure and modernizing our transportation system,” Scott spokesman Trey Stapleton said. “He is opposed to investing in projects that have little or no return on investment to the state.”

Scott plans to review a feasibility study on Florida’s project and assess the state’s funding requirements to “determine if there is adequate return on investment for the taxpayer’s money,” Stapleton said.

Florida Rail Enterprise expects to present the project to Scott. It’s unclear if that will be before his Jan. 4 inauguration.

Teams so far interested in the project include: Soares De Costa of Portugal, which has teamed up with Invensys Rail North America and Spain-based Ferrovial Agroman, Talgo Inc., and Cintra Developments; Bechtel Corp., which teamed up with France’ SNCF and Amtrak; Parsons Corp. with South Korean firms, including Samsung, Korea Railway Association, and Hyundai Rotem; and Fluor Corp. with Balfour Beatty Rail of the U.K. and Japan-based firms, including Mitsubishi International, Central Japan Railway Co., and Sumitomo Corp.

Other interested groups include ACS Infrastructure Development and Dragados of Spain with T.Y. Lin International, TSDI, and CRCC of China, G.E. Transportation, and Odebrecht Infrastructure of Brazil; Germany’s Siemens with France’s Veolia, Spain’s Global Via and FCC, U.S.-based Granite Construction Inc., and Sweden-based Skanska; and Vinci Concessions of France with OHL USA of Spain, Virgin Rail Group of the U.K., and U.S.-based firms, including PBS&J, AECOM, Hubbard Construction, and Archer Western Contractors.

Canada’s Bombarier, U.S.-based Kiewit Corp., and U.K.-based National Express also have shown interest in creating an eighth partnership to bid on the project.

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