Pressure Mounting to Approve Sunrail in Central Florida
Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 03:59 PM
(Orlando, Fla-WMFE) Stakeholders across Central Florida are nervously waiting for Governor Rick Scott’s decision whether or not to approve the region’s 1.2 billion dollar commuter train project.
Scott says he will announce his decision at the end of June.
The Sunrail project has been in the works for years and looked to be running forward smoothly until the Governor put major contracts related to the commuter train on hold in January pending his approval. But that didn’t stop communities from moving forward with their plans to develop storefronts and other transit related amenities near the proposed stations.
See the Sunrail route here.
Some communities have already paid their consultants, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, and could risk spending the money for nothing if the Governor shuts down Sunrail.
According to Phil Laurien, the Director of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, “ It’s a risk if they did not plan for Sunrail. If we waste the asset of the Sunrail stop to have more high density, transit oriented, walkable development, mixed use where people can shop and live and work, those are tremendous assets. Everywhere that transit oriented development has been done right it has stimulated the local economy.”
Laurien says he recently was visited by members of the German Parliament looking for places to invest in sustainable development in the US. He says the Germans consider Central Florida to be a loser region without the commuter train project.
Recently US Congressman John Mica, who chairs the House Transportation Committee heard a presentation on a proposed rail line that would run adjacent to Sunrail from downtown Orlando northwards into rural Lake County, called the Orange Blossom Express. State transportation officials have 13.8 million dollars set aside to improve rails on that line. The Orange Blossom Express could be running within five years