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High-Speed Rail for Florida

October 20th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Plans to build a commuter rail system in Central Florida and enhance the Tri Rail system in Southeast Florida have been knocked off track two years running in Tallahassee. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, key state lawmakers are doing a turn-a-bout because of big dollars that could be available for a high speed rail system.

A Florida high speed rail system has been a dream for more than 2 decades. Voters approved it, then decided it was too expensive. Now, two and a half billion dollars in federal stimulus money is on the table. There’s just one catch. Florida has killed a commuter rail plan two years running.

What legislative leaders are being told is that if they don’t do something for commuter rail, they might as well forget about getting any money for high speed rail.

Sun Rail, which would convert a freight line to commuter rail across four Central Florida counties, is suddenly alive. The Senate President has suggested a special session in December to approve the

“The opportunity to get Sun Rail moving, helps us with the potential for the bullet train being able to come to Florida, high speed rail,” Crist said. “So I think he got that message and God bless him.”

The December session would come a month or two before the Feds decide which states will get the high speed rail money. CFO Alex Sink spoke with Federal administrators, and she says they made it clear to her that commuter rail money and high speed money were tied together.

“They did give me a little push back about Florida not having shown any previous real commitment to a commuter rail,” Sink said.

The High speed plan would link Orlando and Tampa and create about 25 thousand jobs within two years.

The yet-to-be-called special session would likely be held in early December, when lawmakers are at the capitol for committee meetings. Not on the agenda yet is the proposed gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. Governor Charlie Crist says he is working to get the compact on the agenda

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