Friday, February 22, 2013
Another infusion of federal cash is keeping central Florida's SunRail project on track to open in 2014.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, speaking on behalf of transportation secretary Ray LaHood, paid a visit to a Florida Hospital in Orlando, where one of the stops for the 61 mile long SunRail line is being built. Rogoff was joined by local leaders, state department of transportation officials and Florida lawmakers including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown.
Rogoff announced the federal government would make $87.3 million available in funding for SunRail, bringing the FTA's investment to date in the Central Florida commuter rail line to $148 million. The Federal government has agreed to pay $178.6 million overall in New Start funds towards construction of the 32-mile long first phase of the line, about half the capital cost.
"We make incremental payments based on the progress of the project," Rogoff said. "They're making great progress, they're ready to spend that money, they're ready to keep these people on the job."
Rogoff highlighted the rail line as a jobs engine, which has already employed 800 people to work in construction.
"But what we're really excited about is all the additional jobs that are coming in from the economic development along the line," he added.
The Florida hospital station is at the heart of a 176 acre "health village" where the hospital is developing medical research offices, apartments and shops.
SunRail officials say there are more than two dozen retail, office, government and residential development projects associated with stations along the rail line, representing $1.6 billion in investment.
Rogoff also talked about the need for additional spending on roads and other infrastructure in Florida-- particularly to fix up hundreds of bridges, highlighting president Obama's call for a $50 Billion infrastructure plan. "If that $50 billion dollars goes through, you're going to see more investment around here, not just on this type of rail project but on highway and sea port projects that will keep the economy of Florida going."
Asked whether sunshine state might see federal funds in the future for high speed rail, Rogoff said "that is going to depend a lot I believe on the leadership of Florida."
Florida's Governor Rick Scott famously turned down federal money for a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa in 2011.
Meanwhile, SunRail officials say the first phase of the commuter rail line, a 32 mile long stretch from DeBary to Sand Lake Road, will open in 2014.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
By Kate Hinds
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) He's made no official announcement, but Florida Governor Rick Scott's decision not to hand over authority for high speed rail to another entity, thereby killing the project, is drawing a loud response. (And of this writing, officials said that even US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hasn't been formally notified). Earlier today the governor told a local Fox News affiliate: "I'm very thankful that the federal government cares about our infrastructure" and "I'm not convinced this project is a good project." And bipartisan denunciations condemning his refusal to move forward with high-speed rail are rolling in.
Senator Bill Nelson, who spent the last week trying to change Scott's mind, called the governor's decision a "monumental mistake" and added "I think..the governor in rejecting the project may even be exceeding his constitutional authority."
His scathing statement continues: "I am disappointed and – quite frankly – think it pitiful that Scott would turn down $2.4 billion in allocated funding for high-speed rail in the nation’s fourth largest state. Such a decision will cost Florida 24,000 new jobs and will obstruct economic growth along the I-4 corridor, and eventually all the way from Orlando to Miami." (His full -- and lengthy -- statement can be found in a link at the end of this post.)
Meanwhile, Congressman John Mica - the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a member of Scott's own party --was more measured. His statement that said: “The Governor has made his decision to not pursue the Florida passenger rail project. I understand his concerns with the overall project, which would incur certain risks. I have done all that I can to salvage the project to this point and present what I consider to be a viable alternative plan that places the risk with the private sector and protects the taxpayers. I feel confident the 21-mile segment from the Orlando Airport to the Convention Center and Disney World can be a feasible and profitable transportation link for Florida. While the Governor’s action will terminate the project at this time, it is my intention to work to salvage millions of dollars already expended and years of study on the critically important link from the Orlando Airport to our tourist area. I intend to reassess the project and work with local partners to continue seeking a federal and local solution in building this infrastructure project.”
You can read Senator Nelson's full statement below.