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SunRail Showdown: Opponents and Supporters Prepare for Public Hearings

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 12:41 PM

(Orlando -- WMFE) Supporters and opponents of Central Florida’s proposed SunRail train are ramping up for what could be a boisterous set of public hearings next week.

The SunRail project -- a 61-mile commuter rail project that will be centered in Orlando and run through four counties -- has been in the works for years. It looked to be running forward smoothly -- until the Governor put major contracts related to the commuter train on hold in January pending his approval.

Florida’s Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad is scheduled to appear in Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties, as well as holding a separate meeting with Orlando officials.

Prasad is slated to explain to local communities that taxpayers will have to come through with payments for the $1.2 billion project.  He’ll also explain there is no planned bailout if the commuter line fails to make money.

Already the West Orlando Tea Party is planning to rally on the steps of Orlando’s City Hall to protest the project on Tuesday afternoon.  Spokesman Clyde Fabretti says  SunRail “exposes the taxpayers to unnecessary risk.”  He also says members of the Tampa branch of the Tea Party are expected to attend the rally.

Meanwhile, commuter rail advocates in Seminole County are urging supporters to show up at the public forum between Commissioners and the Florida DOT secretary. An email circulating among planning circles says “it is anticipated that the opposition will be out in force.”

The meetings are set for only a few days before Governor Rick Scott’s long anticipated decision on whether or not he’ll approve SunRail by a self-imposed July 1st deadline.

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