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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Florida special session on rail set for Thursday

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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 hearings.


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