Florida special session to address high-speed rail

| 12/1/2009

Florida lawmakers are scheduled to head back to the Capitol this week to discuss high-speed rail as they try to secure federal funding for rail projects.

The state Legislature will convene a special session Thursday, Dec. 3, to consider a proposal to build a commuter-rail system in Central Florida. Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders are intent on approving a $2.1 billion SunRail commuter train system for metro Orlando.

They also want to come up with $27 million to allot for operating costs for the Tri-Trail commuter system in South Florida.

“Florida’s economy and our people need the boost that commuter rail can bring to our state,” Crist said in a statement. “Creating more transportation alternatives means more jobs and more opportunities for economic development that can generate millions of dollars in revenue.”

The 61-mile SunRail project would connect Volusia and three other counties. House lawmakers approved the project during the 2009 regular session, but it fell shy of the votes needed for passage in the Senate.

The latest negotiations between lawmakers to get the SunRail project approved are expected to include purchasing tracks for the commuter train from CSX Transportation in Jacksonville.

Funds for the project would come out of the existing transportation budget.

Supporters are hopeful that if they approve the SunRail plan it would significantly boost their chances of getting $2.5 billion in federal funding to build a high-speed corridor from Tampa to Orlando and from Orlando to Miami. The U.S. Department of Transportation has about $8 billion available for high-speed rail projects.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the proposal included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.