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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

DeSantis says Florida won't pay for Brightline expansion

A yellow, black and white train moves through an intersection. It's going so fast there's motion blur around it.
Brynn Anderson
In this Nov. 27, 2019 file photo, a Brightline passenger train passes by in Oakland Park, Fla. Gov. DeSantis says that the state won't pay for the proposed expansion of service from Orlando to Tampa.

During a Wednesday press conference, DeSantis commented on his decision to deny state funding for construction and operations of high-speed rail operator, Brightline.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Wednesday where he signed a bill that addresses road projects, congestion and other transportation issues.

But there was one thing the bill does not include -- money for the proposed expansion of high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa.

At Florida Polytechnic University, DeSantis commented on Florida lawmakers not including state funding for construction and operation of Brightline, which runs trains between Miami and Orlando.

“It's privately funded. I mean, we are not going to be on the hook as the state with taxpayers for doing trains,” DeSantis said.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Michael Owen put in a request for $50 million to help expand Brightline service to Tampa as part of a larger $2.4 billion road expansion on Interstate 4. Tampa Republicans Sen. Jay Collins and Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman supported it.

DeSantis spoke about plans to widen a section of I-4 through Polk and Osceola counties with the goal of managing traffic congestion.

An earlier version of the bill included a 44-foot-wide rail corridor in the I-4 right-of-way to include that proposed Brightline expansion.

"If they proceed, there is a corridor to be able to do that," DeSantis said. "But it's not going to be Florida taxpayers constructing a train. I can be clear on that."

Brightline expanded their service to run between Miami and Orlando last September.

The bill revises Florida Department of Transportation policies and prohibits public transit providers from using FDOT funds to pay for advertising on buses or other vehicles.

The bill also changes the process of selecting the FDOT secretary. Now, the governor holds power to directly appoint them instead of the previous method of the Florida Transportation Commission recommending finalists to the governor.

The bill goes into effect July 1st.

Ari Angelo is a WUSF-USF Zimmerman Rush Family Digital News intern for spring of 2024.