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SunRail Heading to Florida

December 9th, 2009 by flanews

State lawmakers approved legislation to purchase 61 miles of train tracks in central Florida bringing an early end to the special session of the legislature. The SunRail deal has failed two years running, and appeared to be on the wrong track again, but as Whitney Ray tells us, some last minute wheeling and dealing won key votes.

The vote margin was unexpected, 27 10. The Florida Senate approved the CSX SunRail deal and dedicated funds to bailout TriRail.

Public outcries over liability and labor concerns almost derailed the legislation, but back room deals fast tracked the bill to the Senate Floor and won key votes.

I had three concerns. It was funding, it was liability, and it was the labor issues and all three have been addressed. A lot of the funding is coming from the federal government and if we dont get it, its going to go to other states and other rail lines, said Senator Dave Aronberg.

Legislative leaders were up against a tight deadline: expand the states commuter rail system by January, or miss out on a possible 2.6 billion federal dollars for bullet train.

The vote was an early Christmas present for Governor Charlie Crist and legislative leaders who risked political capital on the hastily called session.

Its a merry Christmas for Florida. I could not be more pleased with what happened with the rail project today. Very, very happy for the people of Florida, for the job opportunities it presents, really thrust Florida in to the future in a great way, said Crist.

The passage of the legislation ended a three year rally by outspoken Senator Paula Dockery to kill the legislation. After the vote Dockery quietly left the Senate chamber, without speaking to reporters.

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