Lawmakers in the House are debating the 49-page proposal that would pave the way for a $2.2 billion Central Florida commuter rail system, create a statewide rail authority and keep Tri-Rail rolling.
GOP House leaders – who have been heated critics of President Barack Obama’s stimulus spending – say they’re doing all that to increase Florida’s chances of getting a slice of the $8 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects being doled out in January. The state’s applied for four projects totaling about $3.7 billion.
After 20 years of Tri-Rail’s operating in the red, why the rush to bail out the South Florida commuter line – the state’s only existing one – now?
Because U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said so.
“There’s a commitment at the federal level to get into the passenger rail business like it never has before,” LaHood told SunRail supporters in Orlando in October. “But, the only way it will pay off is if the State Legislature gets its act together.”