Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul traversed a field full of landmines to accomplish three things: provide up to $15 million in extra annual funding for Tri-Rail, jump-start the SunRail commuter rail in the Orlando area by buying 61 miles of track from CSX and show federal transportation officials that Florida is committed to rail in its future mass transit.
got in on the act, too, with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson's announcement
Dec. 9 that Congress had agreed to spend $40 million on the SunRail
project, $4 million for expansion of Metrorail in Miami and $1.7
million toward a light-rail system in Tampa.
Early next year,
the feds will announce which states will get the federal stimulus
grants for rail projects. Florida is seeking $2.5 billion to build a
high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando and begin environmental work
to extend it to Miami.
Deals were struck, of course, to get the
rail bill passed. Senate Democrats were brought on board when the
governor agreed to protect the jobs of eight unionized railroad workers
More important, a state agreement with CSXT that
makes state taxpayers liable for the railroad employees' negligence on
the SunRail line was modified in the state's favor.
focused leadership and wise compromises, Tri-Rail will keep running
more trains during rush hours. SunRail will double the state's commuter
rail lines. And the bullet train's chances are looking very good.