Private rail line a boon for Florida
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 16:04
After Gov. Rick Scott rejected more than $2 billion in federal stimulus funding provided to construct a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, hope for an alternative and viable form of public transportation was all but lost entirely.
Late last month, however, Florida East Coast Industries announced big plans to build a $1 billion project called All Aboard Florida. The project would be completed by 2014 and, if successful, could later be expanded to service a route between Jacksonville and Tampa.
The passenger train would travel at a top speed of 110 mph and would take about three hours on a trip from Central to South Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. It could become a very important means of high-speed transportation for UCF students who frequently travel home to South Florida.
The timing of the announcement couldn’t be better considering gas prices are close to topping $4 per gallon here in Central Florida. The public rail line would ease up the amount of traffic on the highway and would also help cut back on auto emissions.
The cost of a train ticket from Miami to Orlando is still up in the air, but it could easily be appealing since drivers already pay $16.70 in tolls between the two cities, according to Tanya Snyder at dc.streetsblog.org
The best part about FECI’s plan is that it does not rely one bit on government subsidies. That’s right — it likely won’t cost taxpayers a single penny.
According to FECI, “It will be privately owned, privately operated and privately maintained. There will be no risk to taxpayers.”
If everything goes to plan, the All Aboard Florida project would put eager Floridians back to work, creating some “6,000 jobs to build the system and more than 1,000 jobs to operate and maintain it,” according to the Sentinel.
It could be months before the proper studies are undertaken and completed to determine whether or not FECI’s proposal is considered feasible, but the idea of the private rail line is appealing to both the public and politicians. U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park), chairman of the House transportation committee, is supporting the initiative.
“Hopefully this project will be a national model to demonstrate the efficiencies of private sector transportation projects that do not put the taxpayers at risk,” Mica said in a statement quoted by the Sentinel.
It is now time for Orlando’s theme parks, taxi and bus services, the Orlando International Airport and others to work together to create a local public transportation network that will help push this plan on down the line.