A three-part rail package that is intended to transform Florida’s transportation policy has been signed into law.
Gov. Charlie Crist signed House Bill 1-B into law shortly after a special session wrapped up, which dealt solely with the rail plan. The bill’s passage creates a new agency responsible for all passenger rail in the state. It also allots more funds for the Tri-Rail line in South Florida and enough money to buy 61 miles of tracks from CSX Transportation for a rail project in metro Orlando, dubbed SunRail.
The legislation is intended to show the federal government Florida’s commitment to public transportation. The state is seeking $2.6 billion in stimulus money for 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.
Among the benefits to the SunRail project that supporters have touted is the removal of vehicles that fill an estimated one lane of Interstate 4 during weekday rush hours. The anticipated number of construction projects along the route also was hyped.
Crist said the state’s economy and police are in need of the boost that commuter rail can bring.
“Creating more transportation alternatives means more jobs and more opportunities for economic development that can generate millions of dollars in revenue,” Crist touted in a statement.
One rough spot for the bill, which was eventually smoothed out, was determining who is responsible for any wrecks on the SunRail. Lawmakers agreed on a “no fault” indemnification agreement that would have the state and CSX responsible for their own equipment, workers and passengers.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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