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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Florida Gov. Scott gives go-ahead for SunRail project


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has given the green light for the $1.28 billion SunRail commuter-rail project to proceed, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad announced July 1.

Scott has authorized FDOT to sign a pending Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) for the project, which involves a 61-mile line along existing CSX Transportation track in four central Florida counties, Prasad said in a prepared statement. The USDOT approved the FFGA in May.

“The local officials told me they strongly support SunRail and will work with the state and businesses to ensure its success,” Prasad said. “Furthermore, they clearly understand that the local governments will cover cost overruns. Be assured, I will hold the local officials and the private businesses to their commitments to make SunRail succeed.”

The project’s major funding partners include FDOT; the Federal Transit Administration (FTA); the counties of Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola; and the city of Orlando.

SunRail’s total cost through 2030 is estimated at $1.28 billion, including capital, operations and maintenance expenses, according to FDOT. Capital costs for SunRail Phase 1 and 2 are $1.05 billion, which includes $432 million to purchase the Central Florida corridor from CSXT and $615 million for capital costs.

The project’s construction funding would break down this way: 50 percent from the federal government, 25 percent from the state and 25 percent from the four counties and city

In terms of operations and maintenance costs, FDOT will cover the system’s costs for the first seven years of operations; after that, the system will be turned over to the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission, which will pay for the system’s full operation for the eighth year and beyond.

Several major corporations and businesses have promised to support SunRail by investing “hundreds of millions of dollars in developing areas around the stations and along the corridor,” FDOT officials said. Those private-sector entities include Florida Hospital, Orlando Health, Walt Disney World Resort, Tupperware Brands Corp., Rida Development Corp., Ulster Development Corp., Orange Crown Holdings, Avatar Properties Inc. and SeaWorld Orlando.

In January, Scott had put the SunRail project on hold, saying he needed time to review it. In February, he decided to stop a high-speed rail (HSR) system from being built between Tampa and Orlando, raising concerns among rail supporters that he also would seek to put an end to SunRail. By rejecting the HSR project, Scott also turned away $2.4 billion in federal stimulus dollars that would have funded the HSR project’s cost.

Scott’s decision on HSR disappointed many business and community leaders, who believed the HSR project would be a boon to economic development and job creation.

An FTA analysis estimated that during the construction phase, SunRail would generate about 10,800 jobs; an estimated 150,000 future jobs would result from transit-related corridor development, according to the agency.
— Julie Sneider

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/1/2011