FLORIDA Governor Jeb Bush has signed the High Speed Rail Authority Act, setting up an agency to build a passenger railway connecting the state’s five largest metropolitan areas, and providing $4·5m to fund the first year’s work. Nine board members were to be appointed by June 30: three each by the governor, the state Senate and House.

The move follows last November’s vote amending the state’s constitution (RG 12.00 p798). Bush had previously cancelled the public-private Florida Overland Express project after taking office in January 1999. The new agency will initially undertake environmental and engineering studies for the first leg of the network from Orlando to Tampa and St Petersburg. If it goes ahead, the total project is estimated to cost up to $20bn.

Meanwhile, California’s pro-rail Governor Gray Davis has withdrawn funding for the state’s High Speed Rail Authority from his budget for the financial year starting on July 1. HSRA had asked for $14m to continue development of plans for a 1126 km network linking all of California’s major population centres at a cost of $26bn. However, the current electricity crisis has brought an economic downturn, and the state is having to issue bonds to purchase electricity from elsewhere.