Currently viewing the tag: "Sunrail"

Tallahassee – Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad announced today that Governor Rick Scott has authorized the Department on behalf of the State of Florida to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement for the SunRail project in Central Florida.

On Tuesday, Secretary Prasad spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.

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

SunRail is a commuter rail transit project that will run along a 61-mile stretch of existing rail freight tracks in Central Florida. The major funding partners for the project are FDOT, the Federal Transit Administration, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties and the city of Orlando.

The 31-mile first phase of SunRail will serve 12 stations, linking DeBary to Orlando. Phase II will serve 5 additional stations, north to DeLand and south to Poinciana. Service is expected to begin service in late 2013- early 2014.

For all the SunRail materials, please visit our website at and click “Secretary Prasad announces SunRail decision.”

Secretary Prasad’s SunRail remarks as prepared are below.

As Prepared

Good morning, thank you for joining me today.

As you all know, SunRail is a project that the Department, previous governors, legislatures, local elected officials, and tens of thousands of Floridians have spent years working on to move forward.

At the federal level, Florida Congressman John Mica chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been the most vocal champion of SunRail and commuter rail in Central Florida for nearly twenty years.  He has supported this project by securing funding and he has held numerous hearings and public meetings throughout Florida and in Washington.

Most recently, on Tuesday I spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the five major SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.

I laid out the details of the project and I asked them all if there were any new facts or information about SunRail - since they last voted on the project - which they felt should have a bearing on the decision of whether or not to proceed.

This was important because SunRail is a partnership between local, state and federal governments - along with private sector entities - and it has been years in the making.

With longtime advocates in Congress and the Florida Legislature, it has been championed as a much-needed transportation alternative in Central Florida.

The state’s participation in this contractual partnership has been contingent on local government commitments, federal appropriations, and promises by private sector companies.

My recent tour of Central Florida provided an opportunity for any of these groups to explain if they no longer intended to live up to these promises.

They did not, and I have reported this back to Governor Scott.

The partners told me they still support the commuter rail system, and they clearly understand that the local governments will participate in covering any cost overruns.

I spent most of my time listening. I listened to the elected officials, but, most importantly, I listened to the public comments.

I listened to all sides of this debate, and I must tell you that the overwhelming majority of opinion expressed in each of the meetings I attended was in favor of moving forward.

This was extremely helpful and I want to again state that I appreciate everyone’s participation in the meetings this week.

I then spent nearly two hours with Governor Scott on Wednesday to brief him on the meetings and to once again review the history and legal framework of SunRail.

This was the latest in ongoing meetings with the Governor and his staff to present research and opinions from a wide variety of experts.

As many of you know, the SunRail agreement was approved by a previous legislature.

At the conclusion of the 2009 Special Session on the SunRail project, the Florida House voted 84 to 25 to create the current framework of the project. In the Florida Senate the vote was 27 to 10.

These votes, cast by legislators from all across Florida, include affirmative votes by current House Speaker Dean Cannon, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and CFO Jeff Atwater who presided over the Senate at that time.

SunRail was also supported by former Governors Bush and Crist.

Money from both the federal government and here in Florida has already been appropriated for the project.

Details of those appropriations are in the additional information packets that will be made available after my remarks.

Included is a letter from Chairman John Mica, of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, dated just days ago, reaffirming the federal commitment to have funding immediately available for SunRail.

With all due diligence complete, it is time for a decision.

Because of all these previous actions and legal commitments spanning several years, today I am announcing that the Governor has authorized the Department on behalf of the State of Florida to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement.

This will culminate in SunRail’s construction and operation.

This decision was made after a long deliberative process, and the result is that all stakeholders and partners will be held accountable as the project moves forward.

As I mentioned, the SunRail project includes a number of specific commitments from private sector supporters.

The additional information packet has a more complete listing of these entities and their promised actions, but here are a few examples:

  • In exchange for the purchase of rail track, CSX has committed to investments in railways all over the state. These investments will support other infrastructure such as helping make Florida’s ports more accessible for trade.
  • Walt Disney World has committed to partially subsidize Commuter Bus Transit Service throughout Central Florida to its property.
  • Florida Hospital has committed to pay $3.5 million for its own rail stop and to market and subsidize ridership for all its 17,000 employees.
  • Tupperware Brands Corporation has committed to donate 10 acres of land to serve as the site for the proposed Osceola Parkway station and to establish a shuttle service to carry employees and others to encourage ridership.

In conclusion, today I will call Peter Rogoff – the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration – and tell him we will sign the Full Funding Grant Agreement once it clears the 60-day review period in Congress and is transmitted to the State.

I will now take your questions.


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Looks like Governor Rick Scott is considering whether to cancel Sun- Rail, and send the popular central Florida rail project to the ‘Good Ideas Never Implemented File’. I urge Transit Miami readers to contact the Governor in support of SunRail, the Orlando region’s planned Commuter Rail project. SunRail will serve the core of downtown Orlando and several neighboring towns as well as planned TOD sites. This project is the result of a in a regional visioning process ten years in the making, and will form the backbone of a larger transit network in central Florida.


Transit Miami has been a strong advocate for the Sun-Rail project. Ramping up transit expansion in central Florida is important for the entire state - it is a shift in the state transportation planning culture from highways to transit, and will help institutionalize transit expansion at the state level. Call Rick Scott, and show your support of Sun-Rail!   (850)488-4505

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The State of Florida Senate passed the rail bill, complete with funding for tri-rail ($15-17 million), funding for Sun-Rail, and the establishment of the State Rail Enterprise to manage regional (and high speed) rail. Woo hoo! This is a big first step in the right direction for the State of Florida. The details of the plan might have problems, but the sign of commitment is hugely important, and will be the building block of a more transit oriented future.

The bill is off to Governor Christ, who is expected to sign it into law.

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At the start of the second week of a two-week special session, the Florida House voted 84-25 today for sweeping rail legislation. The bill allows creation of the SunRail commuter line in central Florida, adds a new permanent money source for the debt-ridden Tri-Rail system in South Florida and accelerates construction of a multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail system linking Miami, Tampa and Orlando.

Now on to the more contentious 40-member Florida Senate, where passage is far from guaranteed. We’ll see what happens. I am hopeful for the simple reason that Tri-rail needs to be funded. Unfortunately, Tri-Rail funding  is tied to Sun-Rail and the future of high speed rail in Florida, and the details of these projects are not without controversy (especially Sun-Rail’s lame CSX liability clause- why should we be liable for CSX accidents??) That’s politics, and I would rather see a bad Sun-Rail deal as long as Tri-Rail lives another day.

Check out the full legislation being proposed here and make your own opinion. What do you all think?

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Seems like we here in South Florida are always fighting for the bare minimum when it comes to transit.For the next few weeks the Florida legislature is going to be considering a number of options to fund the controversial Sun-Rail plan, as well as our own Tri-Rail.

Among the key transit proposals under consideration in Tallahassee: Giving Tri-Rail a guaranteed source of income to avoid recurring budget shortfalls, approving construction of a similar commuter rail service known as SunRail in Central Florida and creating an agency to oversee a possible bullet train. (Herald)

It is ridiculous that at the same time that legislators are discussing building a new line (very similar to Tri-Rail) that there remains an ongoing funding problem with Tri-Rail. How can we be expected to get any money for any sort of transit (high speed or normal) when we don’t make a commitment to fund even the most basic commuter rail?? I’m not so worried about losing out on high speed rail dollars as much as I am about the myriad of other local rail projects that rely on federal dollars (like the FEC line).

One might argue that the two issues are not connected, but I think that they are. They point to the single issue that dominates any discussion of transit funding: political will. As Barbara Jordon observed during the last transit summit, political will to raise the necessary funds is the largest obstacle to expanding our transit system. As a commuter line, Tri-Rail is an integral part of creating a balanced multi-modal network in Dade county. This is not about subsidizing a bad business venture, but about funding a necessary (and successful) public good.

SFRTA officials have said that they will discontinue service by 2011 without dedicated funding. Do our legislators really want to be responsible for adding additional 14,000 cars to the road at peak times?

I urge our legislators to support funding for Tri-Rail. Show the feds, and more importantly your constituents, that you take transit seriously and that you will not let an important part of our local economy go to waste.

Please email our elected officials, and let them know that you support funding Tri-Rail. Even if you only write a sentence, it is important for these people to know that the residents of South Florida care about Tri-Rail.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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  • Sunrail special session update: seems like the powers that be are going to meet in December to discuss funding for SunRail and TriRail. “…every leader in Tallahassee has been told by the federal government: you’re not getting any money until Tri Rail gets a funding source,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons, chairman of the board that oversees Tri-Rail. Good to hear. CSX has also agreed to revisit its liability demands.  (Orlando Sentinel)
  • Check out this cool tribute to architecture and urbanism guru Vincent Scully (one of my former professors from UM). (Hartford Courant)
  • Great editorial from Friday’s Herald about the Port of Miami: “As the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal, the Port of Miami has much at stake. The port serves more than 20 shipping lines that call on more than 100 countries and 250 ports across the world. It contributes $17 billion annually and 176,000 direct and indirect jobs to the local economy.” Duh. Then why aren’t we serving the people who work and travel to the Port with adequate mass transit?
  • Glad someone is paying attention: Katy Sorenson is sponsoring a resolution to establish the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact between Palm Beach, Broward, Monroe, and Dade Counties.  (Miami-Dade)
  • Win for citizen involvement: Bruno Barreiro is sponsoring a resolution to direct the Mayor to develop a web-based application for legally required public notices or ads to appear on the County web portal. (Miami-Dade)

  • Changing the practice of architecture: A group of Scottish scientists have invented a 3-d laser modeling device that produces ultrafine images of structures.   “The drawings and computer simulations long cooked up by developers and architects will be replaced by more detailed, easier-to-comprehend, more objective views, in essence democratizing knowledge.” (NY Times)
  • Still truckin': The rally for SunRail is gaining momentum as various civic groups and elected officials back the rail plan. (Winter Park Observer)
  • Congratulations Miami, your political landscape has changed dramatically. What will that mean for transit, walkability and cycling? Only time will tell. (Herald)
  • Why aren’t we doing this:  Check out this great article from the Transport Politic about Tampa’s plans to fund a light rail expansion with a penny sales tax. “The local Metropolitan Planning Organization incorporated the rail project into its long-term plans and has completely reversed course in favor of transit funding; current spending is tilted 83% to highways, while the long-term plan, with almost $12 billion in expenditures earmarked by 2035, provides for a 50-50 split between transit and roads.” This is exactly the sort of shift that needs to happen with our own MPO. It is time to dramatically alter the funding formula of the MPO in favor of mass transit and non-motorized transportation. (Transport Politic)
  • Good News/Bad News: The commission adopted a series of bus service cuts/adjustments, increasing headways in most instances. The good news is that they abolished bus to bus transfers. (Miami Dade County)

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…implement a transportation concurrency management system that supports mobility needs; reduces congestion; supports urban infill and redevelopment; discourages urban sprawl, and achieves healthy, vibrant urban centers.

  • Very cool: MDX is giving FIU $500,000 to study transportation technology:

…the development of an advanced bus rapid transit system along State Road 836 (Dolphin Expressway) and propose how to build various Advanced Transit Oriented Developments (Advanced TODs) where Advanced Transit Stops (ATS) can be located, including adjacent to FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus, the FIU Engineering Center and the Miami International Airport/Miami Intermodal Center.

Javier Rodriguez had this to say:

MDX is pleased to engage the FIU Lehman Center for Transportation Research in helping to identify and develop these cutting edge transportation systems that will help us deliver to the citizens of Miami-Dade County a state-of-the-practice multimodal transportation system,” he said.

Well done sir.

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!)

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  • CTAC Joint Subcommittee will meet tomorrow night to discuss including the US1 Express project on the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan.
  • The City Commission gets pow-pow: Uncle Charlie formally rejected the Mercy Hospital/Jorge Perez land-use change approved by the City Commission. Bad city commission. ¡Eso no se hace!
  • Sunrail may not be dead after all
  • The City of Miami is implementing a Water Conservation Ordinance. Awesome! (It would be great to also require a certain minimum percentage of native - drought tolerant - plants.)
  • US1 Express: Ugghh. ”I would support moving forward,” Gimenez said, alluding to the coming vote on the conversion study. “If it competes with Miami-Dade Transit, so be it.”
  • Miami 21…Where are you?

SunRail was defeated in the State Legislature Friday, 23-16. With it goes the $2 rental car surcharge for Tri-Rail, which most of the South Florida Senators ended up voting against because they said they were worried that local voters might overturn the surcharge. It’s uncertain whether they considered that most locals will not be paying this “tax”, but will definitely benefit from it. Read more at the Palm Beach Post.

Also check out an article at The Ledger that includes Senator Mike Bennet of Bradenton suggesting that the money spent on SunRail would be better spent buying a car for each of the 3,500 riders predicted to ride SunRail the first few years. I know the government is now in the auto business, but really now—how ignorant can you get?

Don’t vote for these guys in the next election.

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  • What a coincidence: seems like transit financing is a problem in NY where a combination of dropping real estate tax, sales tax, and state tax revenues are putting the MTA in the red. The conclusion reached in the article: we need more government subsidy to make up the difference.
  • President Obama is moving to undo Bush era changes to weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. I thought this was interesting, considering our own problems with ignorant state legislators trying to do away with growth laws in the name of commerce“But in a statement, Bill Kovacs, the vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, condemned the action as an unreasonable interference with needed projects.”
  • Marlins Stadium Update: A new bill is on the floor of the state legislature that would require a county referendum on the use of tourist dollars for the stadium, even as City and County leaders shuffle meetings and complain about  each other. Mayor Alvarez is pissed about the way negotiations have been going….join the club dude. Then there is the reappearance our friend Glenn Straub who is offering the old Miami Arena site as an alternative. I like it. This would allow the city to reduce its investment in parking by relying on its existing downtown parking supply. And don’t forget there will already be a neighborhood growing up around the Park West thanks to the Miami WorldCenter project. And it has transit connections. And it frees up the Orange Bowl site for other purposes (can anyone say Manny Diaz Memorial Park?) BUT we still don’t know all the details, and you know what they say about details…
  • Miami-Dade is getting serious about skate parks. Cool.
  • Those state legislators - what schizophrenia. While trying to undo growth laws (a bad move) they go and push ahead with the recently named Sunrail (a really good move).  “He pegs the price of SunRail at close to $1billion. But that is a bargain, SunRail enthusiasts say, when compared to the estimated $7billion it would cost to add one lane in either direction to Interstate 4 for the 61.5 miles covered by the train.” Sounds convincing to me. This is really cool, and will hopefully coincide with the Obama administration’s push for a national intercity railway network. Tamiami trail here we come.
  • The FTA just released the Federal Register Notice describing the allocation of the $8.4 Billion transit stimulus. More on this later….

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