Could Orlando/Tampa high speed rail link be built after all?

Oh the joys of the early 2000s, when Florida voters enacted a law for the construction of a high-speed bullet train that would travel up the I-4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando. But then, when the voters realized how expensive the project would be, AFTER THE FACT, they voted to repeal it. Since then, the project has been practically dead right?

WRONG. Due to money set aside for such rail projects by the recently passed stimulus package, it seems that Florida is pushing to get the project on the list of projects ready to go.

From the Tampa Tribune

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By RICH SHOPES | The Tampa Tribune

Published: February 19, 2009

TAMPA – High-speed rail looked dead four years ago, but backers of the proposal say it’s being resuscitated now thanks to the recently approved federal stimulus package.

“This is unbelievable,” said Lee Chira, chairman of the Florida High Speed Rail Authority.

The group hadn’t met since voters in November 2004 opposed granting state taxes to the project – the first leg of which would have connected Orlando and Tampa for $2 billion.

Now the authority is hopeful it could get some of the $8 billion recently set aside for high-speed rail projects nationwide.

“We’re 90 percent sure we’ll get it because the president said he is looking for communities and authorities that have shovel-ready projects,” Chira said. “We’re farther along than anybody.”

The authority sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration on Jan. 27 expressing interest in the funds and has scheduled a meeting Feb. 26 in Orlando to discuss what to do next.

By mid-September, the authority must have its formal application submitted to the FTA.

The project’s first leg from Orlando International Airport to Tampa was expected to cost $2 billion and include stops at downtown Orlando, Disney World and Lakeland.

The federal government issued environmental permits that would need to be updated, and several years ago granted permission to access the Interstate 4 median for the project, Chira said.

Orlando would become a hub for later extensions to Miami and Jacksonvillle.

“We could be under construction in 12 to 18 months,” Chira said _ if the project receives funding.
After that it could be three to four years before trains are running. They would travel up to 120 mph.