Florida's high-speed rail loss is Qatar's gain

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By Ted Jackovics  www2.tbo.com

In December, Tampa and Miami lost their bids to host the 2022 World Cup soccer games to Qatar, a Middle Eastern nation along the Arabian peninsula.

Dubai metroNow, Florida is losing a chief architect of its proposed Tampa-Orlando-Miami high-speed rail system to Qatar, which is planning a $26 billion rail network timed for the world championship event.

Nazih Haddad, who has worked for the Florida Department of Transportation for nearly 32 years, said Thursday he accepted the position of chief operating and programs officer with Qatar Railways Co., in Doha, the nation’s capital.

Haddad helped keep Florida’s high-speed rail plans current through tumultuous political periods last decade, which enabled the state to lay plans for the nation’s first bullet train line and gain $2.4 billion in Obama Administration high-speed rail allocations.

However, the fate of Florida’s high-speed project remains uncertain at best, given Gov. Rick Scott’s refusal to accept the federal construction allocations. A consortium of elected and business officials from Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando and Miami is pursuing alternatives to keep the project alive.

“When this opportunity presented itself in November of last year, I knew I was ready to take on such a new challenge but I was somewhat apprehensive given the leadership role I had with the Florida High Speed Rail project at that time,” Haddad said in an e-mail.

“I am disappointed we were not successful in bringing HSR to fruition in Florida but proud of the superb effort and of the great team we brought together with over one hundred and fifty extremely dedicated people from both inside and outside the department to undertake the project.”

Haddad will be responsible for the planning, development and implementation of an integrated railway system in Qatar, including a metro rail system in Doha, a light rail system in Lusail and both intercity high-speed passenger and freight rail systems linking Doha to several neighboring countries.