If you haven’t heard all the controversy surrounding Orlando’s commuter rail system, SunRail, then you’re in for some good news and some very (devastating) bad news.
First, an overview. Planning for SunRail started many years ago, but previous attempts to get it through the Florida congress have proved to be unsuccessful. One reason being is that the commuter trains will run along the same corridors as CSX freight trains. This brings up a major liability issue between CSX and the state, which to this day, has not been resolved.
Next, the good news, in this Bay News 9 article, SunRail just managed to pass a senate committee 4-3, which would bring the plan closer to reality. Great news right?!
Wrong, here’s the (devastating) bad news. Florida’s massive budget crisis, coupled with the global recession, is threatening to derail SunRail indefinitely. If state congress has its way and ends up cutting out a huge chunk from a transportation trust fund, then the implications could be severe, possibly delaying SunRail for as much as 5 to 10 years!
Now why do I mention SunRail if it has nothing to do with Tampa Bay? Well, in reality, this pivotal moment will likely affect every single rail project and entity that is either currently in operation or is being planned. Such an example is Miami’s Tri-Rail system. It brings many passengers in southeast Florida to their destinations each day, but the state budget is threatening to pull that system off ts tracks as well. With this transportation trust fund a lot smaller and other sources of revenue cut off as well, Tri-Rail can’t possibly earn the amount of funding it needs to continue operating. Additionally, believe it or not, this cut in the trust fund could also mean a possible delay for Tampa’s light rail system, if such funds are being sought out, not to mention many roadway projects that will have to be shelved.
In other news…
It looks like that the high speed rail dreams for Florida aren’t totally lost….again. As the plans from the $8 billion dollars in stimulus funds set out for HSR become more detailed, it looks like that the first batch of grants will be going out later this year. Will Florida be on the list? We’re not sure yet. But for now, it seems that those bullet trains are one step closer to running here in our sunny state.