Is it really "all aboard" for HSR in Florida

During the past few months, the Obama Administration has been closely examining areas that may be eligible for a High Speed Rail line. Florida continues to be one of them, but we are about in the same line as California at the moment.

So far, the Miami Chamber of Commerce has embraced the idea of HSR in our state…

Miami chamber all aboard plan for intrastate rail
August 3, 2009

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce has embraced the notion of building a high-speed rail line to link Miami and Tampa via Orlando.
The chamber has joined with business group partners in Tampa and Central Florida to endorse Florida’s recent announcement that it will seek a share of $8 billion the Obama administration is offering for high-speed rail development.
The Florida Department of Transportation said it wants $2.5 billion to build the Tampa-Orlando segment and about $30 million to advance the Orlando-Miami leg.
“The project would significantly enhance the vitality, quality of life and economic development of Florida,” according to a Miami Chamber statement issued last week. The group passed a resolution supporting “the design, construction and implementation of the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail System.”
The federal government plans to begin awarding grants before year’s end.

— ALFONSO CHARDY

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami-dade/story/1168836.html

However, much has yet to be settled in Polk County…

High-Speed Rail Wants County’s Backing
State DOT seeks panel’s support for Tampa to Orlando route.

By Tom PalmerTHE LEDGER
Published: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. Last Modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 1:16 a.m.

BARTOW Local officials are poised to consider a resolution to support the Florida Department of Transportation’s application for money to build the first leg of the Florida High Speed Rail Program, the Polk County Commission was told Friday.AC
The action will be a resolution that is scheduled to be adopted at the Aug. 13 meeting of the Transportation Planning Organization, a panel composed of local elected officials that reviews transportation projects.
Jennifer Stults, the county’s long-term planning director, said the action is being taken at DOT’s request to support the agency’s application for $2.5 billion to construct the link between Tampa and Orlando. The application is due by Oct. 2, she said.
The application is part of $8 billion in federal stimulus money that is available nationwide.
If DOT receives the money it seeks, construction could begin by 2011 and could be completed by 2013, Stults said.
The project includes a station in Polk County, but the exact location has not been determined.
Stults said two possible locations are at Kathleen Road and at USF Polytechnic.
Commissioner Ed Smith asked whether U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, is supporting this project or the SunRail project, the Orlando commuter rail.
Stults said Mica is supporting both projects, explaining the federal money for the projects comes from different programs.
Smith asked about the next phase from Orlando to Miami and whether it would connect to the Tri-Rail commuter system there.
The planning details for that portion of the project are still under development, Stults said.

[ Tom Palmer can be reached at tom.palmer@theledger.com or 863-802-7535. ]

http://www.theledger.com/article/20090731/NEWS/908015011/1134?Title=High-Speed-Rail-Wants-County-s-Backing

However, in a general perspective, Florida seems to be ahead of California, being that we did approve (then later rejected) a consitutional amendment. Also, Florida’s plan is the furthest along than any other plan on the table.

Florida Ahead of the Curve on High Speed Rail?
News Service of Florida – Jul 17th, 2009

Florida may be poised to be the first stop for President Barack Obama’s vision of high speed rail connecting major U.S. cities, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos said Thursday at a St. Petersburg Beach transportation summit.
With her department having submitted a pre-application for $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money to build the first leg of a long-discussed Tampa-Orlando-Miami bullet train, Kopelousos said during an address at a three-day Transportation Summit hosted by Floridians for Better Transportation that the traffic signs from Washington, D.C. look good for the Sunshine State.
“If President Obama wants to see dirt turned for high-speed rail, Florida is the leading state,” Kopelousos said.
The Florida high speed rail corridor was one of eight identified by the White House in April for the beginning of a national network. The Tampa-Orlando-Miami route is thought to be a prohibitive favorite for the stimulus money because much of the preliminary surveying had been done when the plan was approved by voters in 2000 and the Florida High Speed Rail Authority was created in 2002.
The high speed rail panel had been parked since 2005, after voters put the brakes on the plans for the bullet train after a push by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who said the state could not afford it. However, buoyed again this year by the possibility of receiving the stimulus money – without a requirement for matching funds from the state – the train talk has picked up speed this year.
But Kopelousos’ optimism about Florida’s prospects for high speed on Thursday were countered in an interview with the News Service of Florida by Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who said the DOT’s stimulus application’s chance for success could be harmed by two others that accompanied it. Dockery said the other applications were not truly high-speed rail, which the stimulus set aside $8 billion for.
“It would seem like if they were serious about high speed rail, they would have done just that project and put all their eggs in one basket,” Dockery said. “They’re watering down their effort by putting in other projects that are not even related.”
The DOT submitted an application for $432 million for the controversial proposed SunRail Orlando commuter train alongside the application for construction of the Tampa-Orlando leg of the bullet train and a request for $70 million for “incremental” passenger service between Jacksonville and Miami that would operated by Amtrak.
If the high speed rail application is approved, Gov. Charlie Crist’s stimulus advisor Don Winstead told reporters this week that the money will also be used for engineering and environmental work for the Orlando-Miami portion of the line. However, Winstead disagreed with Dockery’s assessment that the other application would harm the high speed rail request, saying the requests were appropriately separated.

http://www.jaxobserver.com/2009/07/17/florida-ahead-of-the-curve-on-high-speed-rail/

The question still remains though, will Florida win the bid? One large problem continues to be an inefficiency of mass transit connections in both Tampa and Orlando. California has such connections in place, with plans for more in the future. That element alone increases the chances of California winning the bid, rather than Florida. Unless, we can set the political squabbling aside and properly plan these connections, Florida’s bid for HSR will indeed be lost…

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