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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Florida enacts bill to spur passenger rail; FTA advances light-rail project in Texas


Yesterday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill into law that establishes a comprehensive framework for the state’s current and future passenger-rail system, including Tri-Rail and the proposed $1.2 billion SunRail line.

The legislation authorizes the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to complete the purchase of the Central Florida Rail Corridor for SunRail after obtaining a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). FDOT is working with federal government and central Florida officials to develop and operate SunRail, a 61-mile commuter-rail line that would run along existing freight-rail tracks in Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties.

The legislation also provides additional annual funding — about $13 million to $15 million — for Tri-Rail, which operates 50 trains daily between West Palm Beach and Miami. Tri-Rail operator the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority had faced significant service reductions without additional resources.

In addition, the legislation creates the Florida Statewide Rail Commission to advise the FDOT and state legislature on the development and operation of Florida’s passenger-rail systems, and the Florida Rail Enterprise within FDOT to oversee all state-owned passenger-rail systems.

Meanwhile, the FTA recently notified the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) that the University Corridor light-rail project can enter the New Starts program’s preliminary engineering phase. METRO now can begin to prepare a final environmental impact statement and seek a record of decision for the project, which calls for building an 11.3-mile double-track, 19-station line.

The FTA cited the project’s potential to improve transit time and reliability. The University line is projected to attract 49,000 riders daily by 2030.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/17/2009