I took a trip up to Orlando this weekend, and couldn’t help but think of how much more pleasant the trip would have been if I didn’t have to play road warrior to get there. At about 230 miles away, Orlando is not very far in high speed rail talk, considering that the base speed for a train to be considered ‘high speed’ is 125 mph or faster. That would make the trip to Disney almost two hours (allowing for a certain number of stops between here and there).

The future of rail travel within the State of Florida is might look different in ten years if legislators agree to meet this December to revisit state funding of Sun Rail (and Tri Rail).

The battle lies in Atwater’s Senate, where critics twice have defeated SunRail despite well-financed pushes by special interests. The most recent proposal included the state paying $150 million for CSX rail track in Central Florida then paying an additional $496 million for improvements to CSX facilities and to a CSX freight line west of the commuter system. Hundreds of millions more would come from local and federal governments to complete the $1.2 billion project. (Herald)

With the feds ready to give half a billion for the construction of Sun-Rail, and construction set to begin within a year of approval by the state legislature, what are they waiting for??  Regardless of the future of high speed rail in Florida, this is a worthy project that will help produce a modal shift in Central Florida.

Map of Sun Rail

Observers say that funding Sun-Rail and Tri-Rail now is pivotal in order to be taken seriously by the feds for high-speed rail funding (not to mention funding for our own much needed FEC corridor). Local commitments to fund rail and transit projects are vital in securing federal dollars for constructing infrastructure. If the feds don’t see that local officials are going to participate, then why should they try to help? Awards will be made by next December, with construction estimated to begin on the Tampa/Orlando segment  in late 2011.

High Speed Rail Map FloridaOur state representatives need to act quickly to provide a dedicated revenue source for Tri-Rail and commit to funding Sun-Rail. Other issues also remain, such as the exact alignment of the Miami/Orlando route, and the location of stops within the Orlando area (currently including Disney, International Drive and the airport). Disney world currently offers its own free shuttle service from the airport called Magical Express:

Begin your vacation the moment you step off the plane. Bypass baggage claim and avoid the hassle of having to find transportation and drive, as Disney’s Magical Express service transports you from Orlando International Airport to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel, and pick ups and deliver your bags to your room. And when your vacation ends, we’ll transport you and your luggage back to the airport. (Disney)

Disney has signed on to SunRail by donating land, BUT has not made clear whether it will encourage visitors to use the new service because of concerns over potential stops at International Drive (with hundreds of other potential hotels for visitors to go to).

The state, in its $2.5 billion application for federal funding for the high-speed train, does not count on picking up any passengers with Disney or I-Drive stops. They put the potential ridership at 1.9 million to 2.2 million. The I-Drive stop could add 530,000, while Disney could go from none to 2.2 million.

In a perfect world, the Orlando/Miami segment would be scheduled to begin running in 2017, just in time for my son’s 11th birthday. It would be nice to take him up to Orlando in a nice new train! If you support this project, please use the contact info below (or email your state representative) and let our leaders know that high speed rail (and Sun-Rail) are important to the residents of Miami-Dade. (Also contact Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who recently told me that he didn’t hear anyone in Miami asking for a rail connection to Orlando!)




Related posts:

  1. FL High Speed Rail Links…
  2. Obama Administration Unveils High-Speed Rail Plan
  3. Florida Makes Its High-Speed Rail Bid
  4. This is ‘High Speed Rail’
  5. High Speed Rail Update: Florida Supreme Court Sides with Scott
Tagged with:

9 Responses to Sun-Rail & Florida’s High-Speed Rail Future

  1. Tony says:

    yes! I linked to it above.


  2. Amy Radfar says:

    Not only would the light rail be a stimulus for attracting more tourists to the state, it would be a real boon for Florida real estate. Obviously most of the people moving to Florida are older and this form of transportation is a great attraction. The slumping real estate market would greatly benefit from the addition of a light rail system.


  3. Felipe Azenha says:

    Great point Amy. Senior citizens would certainly benefit from both light rail and high speed rail. There certainly is a positive correlation between transit oriented development and real estate values.

    One of the main reasons the FEC wants to allow the use of its tracks for commuter rail is because they own a lot of land along this corridor. They stand to make a lot of money from TOD if this happens.


  4. Ed Crawford says:

    Good piece. There is a factual error regarding Disney. They are on board with high speed rail and have committed 50 acres of land for a station, land valued a $25 million. This came after they dropped their previous objection to the International Drive station.
    Your readers can find out more at our website: http://www.lifeat128mph.com
    Keep up the good work!


  5. Tony Garcia says:

    “But whether Disney will do anything to get its millions of customers to actually ride the train is unclear.

    Disney officials are mum about their intentions, telling the Orlando Sentinel only that “it’s premature to speculate on the details surrounding high-speed rail” because no one knows whether it will be built.”
    I should have said that they are not guaranteeing their guests will use the new service (which I take to mean they don’t fully support the project yet). As the process advances, I think they will be supportive.


  6. Neil says:

    Transit Miami once again pimps a sprawl inducing train into the distant suburbs so that developers can market homes built on more distant farmland to buyers who have to commute to work. The big payoff for this boondoggle is the chance to divert more transit funds from urban areas to places like Yeehaw Junction. Promoting inter-city travel regardless of the cost to the environment in terms of greenhouse gasses.


  7. Kesley says:

    I can’t wait!!! I would love to hope on a train and go to Disney in just a couple of hours, can you imagine?
    I’ve always had a dream of just impulsively driving to Disney one weekend. This will make it a reality. Just hope on a train and go over there.
    Those annoying drives to West Palm Beach will be no more. Now I can just hope on a train everytime I want to go see a concert or event that is up there.

    The only thing I don’t like is, if you’re in Gainesville, how do you get to Orlando or Miami? You have to go to Tampa? And if you go to Miami, you have to go through the west coast, via Fort Myers and Naples? They should think of some kind of link between Gainesville/Ocala to the east coast.


  8. Tony says:

    Neil, since when does transit promote greenhouse gases? I would hardly call putting infrastructure in to guide growth a ‘sprawl inducing’ measure. Sounds like NIMBY talk to me. Go learn what smart growth means - it certainly is not about not growing, just growing smartly. Sunrail us a very worthy project. All you have to do is go to towns like winter springs where the train will serve walkable, pedestrian-friendly urbansim. Not sprawl inducing. Your comment about greenhouse gases is laughable. What do you think reduces greenhouse gases more than a region trane that gets people out of their cars? Local transit has a very important role to play, but that should be funded at the local level as well.

    Kelsey: I agree about connecting to Gainesville.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>