Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker
Larry Cretul called a special lawmaking session to begin Thursday to dedicate
funds for Tri-Rail and advance plans for Central Florida's SunRail.
The proposal, which is still being drafted, calls for $15
million annually for South Florida's Tri-Rail system, would establish the
Florida Rail Enterprise to oversee all passenger rail, pay CSXT $1 billion for
tracks to build the 61-mile Orlando area SunRail system and spare taxpayers
from lawsuits should a freight accident occur on tracks shared with passenger
trains. Legislators hope that in passing the proposal it will show the state's
commitment to commuter rail and improve its chances of securing stimulus funds.
Currently, the Senate has 20 votes, one shy of the total
needed for the yet to be completed legislation to pass. The sticking point in
the proposal is that it currently has no legal protections for railroad
employees who would work on the SunRail commuter line once the state bought the
tracks from CSXT.
A final vote on the legislation will not occur until next
week, when legislators planned to be in Tallahassee for a week of committee