Broward News

Rick Scott Finds a Train He Likes: $1.2 Billion SunRail

He didn't like the idea of an almost-free high-speed train, and he vetoed plans to restore a Holocaust rail car, but Gov. Rick Scott finally found a train he likes -- the SunRail, with a price tag of $1.2 billion, including a cost of more than a half-billion dollars to the state.

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad made the announcement this morning, saying that the other half of the money to fund the project has been confirmed by the federal government.

Now, instead of the state paying only $200 million of a $2.6 billion high-speed train that had planned to extend through West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami by 2020, this commuter train goes from DeLand through downtown Orlando and south to Poinciana.

It's a 61-mile route, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, on a track that's already been built.

The first part of the SunRail, a 31-mile stretch from DeBary to Orlando, is expected to be ready by 2013.

The governor's decision is, well, mystifying.

The bullet train Scott rejected would have initially linked Orlando and Tampa at a speed of 168 mph -- under an hour for the trip. Five years after that, it was scheduled for the extension through West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami to be complete.

The federal government offered $2.4 billion for the $2.6 billion project, and transportation officials swore up and down that there wouldn't be any financial burden dumped on the state, but the governor rejected it anyway.

He bashed the project because of its use of federal stimulus money, then left $370 million of the feds' cash in the budget this year for other uses.

Now South Florida gets shafted out of a train, with a much larger cost than the high-speed rail he nixed.

Prasad says the state's money for the SunRail -- which was approved by the state Legislature in 2009 -- has already been appropriated in the budget for the project.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley