SunRail Update



WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) today met with fellow Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and several Florida State lawmakers to talk about the potential for billions in Federal investment in high-speed rail in Florida. Senator LeMieux stressed that Florida’s chance for a multi-billion dollar boost from the U.S. Department of Transportation is in jeopardy if the State Legislature doesn’t take action on SunRail and other commuter rail systems by the end of the year.

“Shame on us if we don’t take advantage of this historic opportunity. The Federal government is ready to invest billions of dollars but they need a firm and long-term commitment from our state,” said LeMieux. “Building commuter and high-speed rail lines will create thousands of jobs; it will stimulate our economy; and it will mean transformative change for our metropolitan areas.”

Senators LeMieux and Nelson met with Senate President Jeff Atwater, Democrat Leader Al Lawson, and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair J.D. Alexander.

“Florida’s senators stand together committed to helping our state construct high-speed rail. I commend Senators Atwater, Lawson, and Alexander for committing to pursuing this historic opportunity,” said LeMieux.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has roughly $8 billion set aside from the federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects. There are currently more than 200 applications from 40 states. Florida is applying for funds for the existing designated high-speed rail corridors from Tampa to Orlando and from Orlando to Miami.

According to communication from Metroplan Orlando:

Following distribution of the news release [above] yesterday, we received word that there will likely be a special legislative session to address the outstanding insurance and liability provisions necessary to finalize SunRail.

Governor Crist and Senate President Jeff Atwater are calling for a special session Dec. 7 – 11, which is a scheduled committee week.  Currently we are waiting to hear if there is a call from the House Speaker, the remaining requirement to make the special session official.

You can use this website to contact your legislators.

20 replies
  1. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Florida’s Orlando-to-Tampa line is one of the strongest applications in the nation, as Florida did extensive planning for the segment and left a 40-foot envelope along I-4 to accommodate it… but only if we move forward with SunRail. High-speed projects with connections to commuter and light rail are going to rank higher.

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    HS Rail and SunRail, a match made in heaven — reminds me a screwball comedy movie.

    Do you think it was an accident the two projects are being tied together? Not if you know that Paula Dockery and C.C. “Doc” Dockery are married.

    Senator Paula Dockery was able to find the votes to kill SunRail two years in a row.

    C.C. “Doc” Dockery spent $3 million of his own money to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot directing the state to create High Speed Rail, which passed. Then Governor Bush got ANOTHER ballot amendment passed which rescinded the High Speed Rail directive.

    And that’s where things were until Obama was elected. Governor Crist was torn. He is running for the US Senate as a conservative, so he wants to appeal to the teabag base, but the Federal money sure would be nice and maybe the HS line could someday be called the “Charles J. Christ Memorial Rail Line.” So after months of fiddling, he finally says, “Okay, sort of . . . no wait . . . okay as long as I can blame it on Sink and McCollum, then it is okay.”

  3. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    The two projects are tied together because (gasp!) they were planned that way. Look at Europe. You get off the high-speed rail and walk over to the local rail transit system to go to your ultimate destination. Hmm. Might work here, too.

  4. Keri
    Keri says:

    If it wasn’t integrated that way we’d have to build huge parking garages at the high speed rail stations. Then what would be the point.

  5. Eric
    Eric says:

    “The two projects are tied together because (gasp!) they were planned that way.”

    I remember people talking up High-Speed Rail between Tampa and Orlando when Governor Kirk was in office. The rich people never got behind it because they could (gasp) get in their plane(s) and fly over I-4. No lines, no waiting.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      So you may be correct that Sunrail was planned based upon HS going in too, but we haven’t heard about that until now.

      But, once again, without a bus system or tram system or trolley, there is “no there, there.” If I ride HS to Tampa, how will I get to St. Pete without spending two hours on a bus? Or, for that matter how will I get to a business on the Kennedy Blvd without driving?

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        Back in the olden days, before fuel got so expensive, it was not unknown for wealthy folks to jet from OEA to Paris for an afternoon of lunch and shopping and be back before dinner. Ah, those were the good old days.

  6. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Gotta start somewhere.

    I’ve read that in federal money alone we’ve spent over $3.5 trillion on highways in this country since 1955, and only $175 billion on rail. Gee, I wonder why we have so much auto-oriented sprawl and so little transit-oriented development?

    If the reverse had been true, how would people feel today about “wasting taxpayer dollars building roads to places already served so well by train?”

    Patience Eric. The Interstate Highway system took about 35 years to complete. But that’s when we were flush with money and had a strong consensus to do it.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      We will see how this divide and conquer tactic works out. I am interested to see how the Dockery’s square this circle.

  7. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Dockery is getting increasingly marginalized. A number of Senators who voted with her in the spring have said they will support SunRail this fall.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      She says she is thinking about running for governor. I think she will vote against it and lose. Then she can run for office claiming that she held them off as best she could, but finally couldn’t stop the spendthrifts any more.

  8. Laura
    Laura says:

    I too wonder how Dockery sides on this issue. It was always rumored and suspected that the reason she was against SunRail had a lot to do with HS Rail. The trial lawyers lobby, that were somewhat instrumental in killing the initiative as well, are in a bit of a public relations tight spot right now with prominent attorneys publicly criticizing them for some campaign shenanigans.

    As for bus service, LYNX already serves the airport with several direct routes to I-Drive, Downtown, and Disney. It’s often better service than the individual hotel shuttles to and from Disney. International visitors don’t seem to mind using the bus.

      • Laura
        Laura says:

        There will still likely need to be parking garages, but those aren’t necessarily awful. Think of the HS Rail station kind of like an airport – how do people get where they need to go when they fly into major cities? Generally either rent a car or use the rail service – commuter, regional, or light rail. That’s why getting SunRail approved in conjunction with HS Rail is very desirable. South Florida also put in an application for their segment of HS Rail – some of those folks think their application is better because of Tri-Rail and the longer distances to take advantage of the speed. (Tampa to Orlando is ~90 miles or so, not much time to get up to full speed). That said, Secretary LaHood basically stated in no uncertain terms, if FL can’t support commuter rail, the feds really don’t want to commit dollars to HS Rail or any other rail project proposed in FL. Can’t say I blame them.

        I hope that the legislators from Tampa and Jacksonville see how they’ve hamstrung their own efforts to bring rail to their communities by voting against SunRail. Don’t even get me started on the legislators from south florida that didn’t support SunRail last year.

  9. Conservative Republican
    Conservative Republican says:

    The good citizens of Central Florida don’t need another government boondoggle program, which is exactly what ScamRail is. The train to nowhere useful, whose demographic hasn’t been established, will subsidize the farebox at the expense of adding new taxes to our already over-burdened tax load. In short, we don’t want it, don’t need it, and certainly can’t afford it. Kill this pig once and forever.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      1) Conservative Republican Congressman John Mica doesn’t share your view on this.

      2) It’s already funded

      3) Want to attack wasteful spending? Go for the ever-expanding traffic sewers that are not only a huge subsidy for private auto use, but a subsidy to developers who make a killing turn cheap land into sprawl and creating more traffic and more need to expand the roads.

      Everything is subsidized. If you add sustainability and long-term economic, social and environmental consequences into the cost-benefit, the imbalanced subsidy for private auto transportation looks like the bigger scam.

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