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SunRail gets a green light

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Photo | Leo King

This train now runs on Florida Tri-Rail. In a few years, similar trains are expected to be running in Central Florida on SunRail. Gov. Rick Scott gave his go-ahead today through his Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad for SunRail to proceed. The train visited Jacksonville in March 2007 enroute to Miami. The action may clear the way for commuter trains in Jacksonville.

Florida DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said today in Tallahassee that Gov. Rick Scott, R, has authorized FDOT, on behalf of the State of Florida, to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement for the SunRail Project in Central Florida.

On Tuesday, Prasad spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.

“The local officials told me they strongly support SunRail and will work with the state and businesses to ensure its success. Furthermore, they clearly understand that the local governments will cover cost overruns,” said Prasad.

He added, “Be assured, I will hold the local officials and the private businesses to their commitments to make SunRail succeed.”

The governor’s action may clear the way for commuter rail for the First Coast. The JTA is preparing paperwork to get federal approval from the Federal Transit Administration to start work beyond the planning and feasibility study that has already been completed.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., was happy when he learned of Scott’s decision.

He said, “I commend the governor for moving forward and joining with local and federal partners in approving this transportation milestone.” He chairs the House Transportation Committee and hails from Winter Haven.

“This is as significant for the state as when Henry Flagler brought the railroad to Florida and when President Eisenhower initiated the Interstates. This transportation alternative offers the only real cost-effective, near-term solution for our region’s highway congestion, and will have tremendous benefits for employment."

Mica also sees jobs coming to Florida.

“Thousands of jobs will be directly created by the construction of SunRail, and even more employment will be generated by responsible corridor development.”

With the governor’s approval, the Florida DOT, the five local governments and the Federal Transit Administration can now execute the funding agreement that finances the project.

The governor’s clearance also allows for the official transfer of ownership of the 61-mile corridor from CSX to the state and freight rail relocation to the center of the state.

SunRail service is scheduled to begin in 2014.

SunRail is a commuter rail transit project that will run along a 61-mile stretch of existing rail freight tracks in Central Florida. The major funding partners for the project are FDOT, the Federal Transit Administration, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties and the city of Orlando.