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Tri-Rail, SunRail in Florida House bill, now onto the Senate

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Florida's House of Representatives passed rail legislation that would fund Tri-Rail, create SunRail, create the first leg of a high-speed corridor and reduces tax-payer liability should a freight accident occur on tracks that also operate passenger service. A partial summary of the legislation as reported in the Miami Herald includes: • SunRail: Allows state to spend $432 million to buy 61 miles of existing rail track,owned by CSX Corp., from DeLand in Volusia County to Poinciana in Osceola County for operation of a commuter rail system. Additional money comes from the federal government, four Central Florida counties (Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia), the city of Orlando and passenger fares. • High-speed rail: Earmarks $2.6 billion over 30 years, most of it federal money, for a high-speed rail system linking Tampa, Orlando and Miami. The first leg of the system will link Tampa and Orlando. • Tri-Rail: Provides $13 million to $15 million annually to reduce operating deficits in Tri-Rail, which serves Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. • Liability: Requires the state to buy a $200 million liability insurance policy for SunRail, with the annual premium expected to be about $2 million. The state agrees to hold CSX harmless in crashes, but the carrier must pay the state's insurance deductible (about $10 million) in certain cases caused by the willful misconduct of the company or its employees or subsidiaries. The bill has cleared the Senate Transportation Committee, Judiciary Committee and Transportation Spending Committee, it will be taken up on the Senate floor this afternoon.

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