Start of the Showdown: Six SunRail Hearings Tuesday

(Orlando, Fla-WMFE) Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad is barreling through Central Florida today, holding six public meetings in cities along the route of the proposed SunRail commuter train.

Governor Rick Scott is expected to decide by Friday whether to approve the project. Communities along the rail line are holding their breath, hoping the project will revive their struggling economies, and some people have already invested money to back up those hopes.

Ryan Von Weller and his partners spent $3 million top buy four acres of land right next to wear the railway would pass in Longwood.

“I’ve been so excited and so disappointed so many times,” he says, “I’m truly excited about this, not only for my own business purposes, but I think it’s going to be a paradigm shift for the people of Orlando.”

Right now it's just a grassy lot with an old auto garage in it. If and when SunRail comes through, Von Weller will build a four-story mixed-use apartment building.

That's just one small example of the investments, which are both private and public, in cities along the proposed route.

Opponents including Tea Party protesters, say the plan is too expensive and plan to protest the public hearings.

State numbers obtained by WMFE show cities and counties along the 61-mile SunRail line will have to spend nearly $7.5 million a year by 2021 to keep the train operating.

Federal contributions are expected to cover $2 million of that, and riders are expected to generate $3 million in revenue.  That leaves a roughly $2 million deficit that will need to be covered.

Secretary Prasad will likely tell local leaders today that the state has no plans to help bridge that gap.

For more details on how the fight over SunRail has businesspeople, civic leaders and private citizens biting their nails and protesting in the streets, read the full story at WMFE.