Central Florida Takes in Millions for Rail and Roads Plans

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East Central Florida Regional Planning Council Getting Ready for Rail

(WMFE, Orlando, Fla.)  This week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a $2.4 million dollar grant to the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council to develop transit options around Central Florida’s planned Sunrail commuter train stations.

The money comes in the form of a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. East Central Florida Regional Planning Council (ECFRPC) Commission Chair Cheryl L. Grieb says “The grant funding will support detailed station area planning for six of the 12 phase I Sunrail Stations, and affordable housing assessments for all 12 station areas.”  Sunrail is slated to start running in 2014.

That wasn't the only transportation financing news for the area recently. Late last week the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority announced a tentative funding deal to build the $1.8 billion dollar Wekiva Parkway near Orlando. The highway would complete a ring-road network around the great metro Orlando region.

Under the proposal, the Expressway Authority would split ownership of the road with the Florida Department of Transportation. Expressway spokeswoman Lindsay Hodges says the arrangement is similar to deals with other major toll roads around Orlando. Details still need to be worked out between Fla. DOT and Metroplan Orlando.

Winter Park Congressman John Mica (R) urged the Expressway Authority to consider a variety of options to help fund the project. In a recent interview with WMFE, Mica, who chairs the U.S. House Transportation Committee, suggested the private section could play a valuable role, "They should consider putting the toll roads up for private tender. I think that they could raise a tremendous amount of capital, finance projects like the Parkway, some expansion on I-4 without coming to the federal government."  Parts of the Wekiva Expressway would be tolled under the current proposal.

Earlier this month, under pressure from Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and other political leaders, Expressway Authority chief Mike Syder resigned after questions over his financial management of the roads agency.