Big Contracts Awarded Ahead of Sunrail Groundbreaking Next Week

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Artist's Concept of the SunRail Train

(Orlando, Fla. -- WMFE) On Monday July 18, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is slated to attend a groundbreaking ceremony in Orlando for the SunRail Commuter train project.  LaHood is also expected to sign papers promising $72 million dollars in Federal funding for SunRail.  Total costs are expected to be around $1.2 billion dollars.

In the roughly two weeks since Florida Governor Rick Scott approved the Central Florida Commuter Train plan contracts have started moving.  The Florida Department of Transportation gave Boise-based locomotive manufacturer Motive Power the go signal on a $17.5 million contract for designing and manufacturing seven SunRail locomotives, with the stipulation that up to thirteen could be built later on. An agreement was also signed with Amtrak and the Florida Central Railroad this week that will provide operational support for SunRail.

Notices to proceed were also given to Archer Western/Railworks for $170 million worth of work related to track improvements along the 61 mile route.  Items still to be finalized include ticket vending machines and closing the purchase agreement from rail giant CSX on the rail corridor.  That will likely take place this fall.  SunRail is expected to start carrying passengers in 2014.

Other rail line ideas are gaining ground in the wake of SunRail’s approval.  One concept is called Orange Blossom Express.  The Express would be small passenger service moving rail riders from Lake County into Orange County with a connection into the SunRail line.  Tracks currently owned by Florida Central Railroad would need to be upgraded before passenger trains could travel on the line.  There is also debate among some local communities about the need for a passenger service.  Advocates for the plan though are hoping to sway skeptics towards supporting a proposal.