He giveth unto South Florida what he taketh away from our neighbors to the north. Although Rick Scott refused $2.4 billion federal stimulus money in 2011 that would have funded a bullet train between Orlando and Tampa, he was one of the biggest supporters of All Aboard Florida. Either our governor really likes his southernmost constituents or really dislikes Obama (Hint: it's the latter.)
But regardless of the reason: We're getting a privately owned high-speed rail, folks, and the plans for Fort Lauderdale's station will be unveiled later this morning. Artist's renderings show a futuristic, straight-out-of-Star-Wars building that will soon grace NW 2nd Ave. between Broward Blvd. and NW 4th St.
Plans to build a stop in Orlando have been delayed, meaning All Aboard Florida will run only between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach for a while. The stations will cost $150 million, $30 million, and $29 million respectively. None of the money will come from Florida taxpayers, which is pretty great, and it won't come from that dang Obama, either, which is pretty great for Governor Scott, we guess.
But Floridians won't be able to jump Aboard until the end of 2016.
So if you're itching to hit the rails but aren't solely interested in getting from Point A to Point B, here are the other four systems in Florida, ranked by the views they provide. Remember: It's not the destination, man, it's the journey.
4. SunRail This is ranked last because it goes through a series of not-scenic greater Orlando sprawl, but also because the most memorable thing you'll see is probably your train car colliding into someone's regular car. There's even a website: DaysSinceSunRailAccident that solely exists to answer its titular question. Someone probably got paid $1 million to come up with saying "Big Train, Little Car, Are You Past the Stop Bar?" But even though those signs have graced Central Florida roadways for decades, people there don't seem to understand the concept of NOT stopping on railway tracks. (In South Florida, we don't stop on them, we just go through them when there might be a train coming.) Since it opened May 1st, there have been three crashes. The last one was 11 days ago. So unless your zen place is a monster truck rally, probably skip this one as a tourist.
3. Amtrak's Auto Train Next time you're sitting in I-95 deadlock, close your eyes and imagine picking up your car, putting it on a train and being transported south about 900 miles. Ok, if you were in Broward to begin with, that would put you somewhere in South America. But if you weren't -- how tight would that be? The Auto Train starts in Virginia and ends up in Sanford providing a pretty good overview of the South. You bring your car, pack it like a suitcase and fly past states's worth of traffic while enjoying a coastal view. It's the easiest way to gain total familiarity with the former Confederacy -- if you're into that sort of thing.
2. Amtrak's Silver Star & Silver Meteor This Amtrak connects Miami to New York, which means you'll be an A+ geography student by the end of the line. It's only coastal in South Florida, and then it jumps across the state to Tampa before crawling up the U.S. through the center of states like the Carolinas. It's a 28-hour trip, sure, but you're able to jump off along the way and learn all of the material you were supposed to learn in 10th American History class in the course of one day. Also a good option if you're in 10th grade and just "On The Road" and aren't old enough to drive, but have an aunt in New York.
1. Tavare's-Eustis & Gulf Railroad This scores major points for just being referred to as the Orange Blossom Cannonball. The ultimate Florida train, this one starts in either Mount Dora or Tavares. Choose your own adventure, like a "Goosebumps" book. No matter which direction you're headed, it'll be in either a 1907 steam locomotive or a 1941 GE 45 ton center cab which makes it a presumed favorite among steampunk-adhering teenagers. Although it's more functional as a tourist attraction than anything else, the OBC is pretty dope for adults and foodies, too. You can take take 90-minute trips that focus on pizza, wine & cheese. Another option is to ride the train that starred in "True Grit," "There Will Be Blood" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
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