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Voters back Florida high-speed rail


Despite the questions, controversy and confusion surrounding Florida’s presidential selection, the result of one item on that state’s ballot was clear: Floridians want high-speed ground transportation.

Citizens Nov. 7 voted 53 percent in favor of Article X, Section 19, which states that high-speed ground transportation, such as monorail, fixed guideway or magnetic levitation system capable of speeds greater than 120 mph, is in the public interest. Article X also mandates the legislature, cabinet and governor proceed with the development of such a system, including right-of-way acquisition, design and construction financing, and system operation, with construction to begin on or before Nov. 1, 2003.

"Maglev is the ultimate. Diesel is the starting point and electric is the midpoint," says C.C. "Doc" Dockery, chairman of Floridians for 21st Century Travel Connections and Choices, the political action committee that lead the bullet-train charge.

Floridians have been planning high-speed ground transportation for 16 years, says Dockery. Originally, Gov. Bob Graham created a high-speed rail committee — to which Dockery was appointed. But Gov. Lawton Chiles abolished the committee, only to resurrect it two years into his administration.

Then in early 1999, newly elected Gov. Jeb Bush cancelled the so-called Florida Overland eXpress project.

"We’ve never had the political continuity to see this through to the end," says Dockery.

That’s why he chose to invest 18 months and $3 million to present voters with an amendment to the state constitution: The only way to cancel the project would be to create and pass another amendment.

With the next general election not until 2002 — and construction mandated to begin the following year — Dockery may have found a way to bring high-speed ground transportation to Florida once and for all.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/10/2000