On Tuesday, Secretary 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 Secretary Prasad. “Be assured, I will hold the local officials and the private businesses to their commitments to make SunRail succeed.”
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.
The 31-mile first phase of SunRail will serve 12 stations, linking DeBary to Orlando. Phase II will serve 5 additional stations, north to DeLand and south to Poinciana. Service is expected to begin service in late 2013- early 2014.
For all the SunRail materials, please visit our website at www.dot.state.fl.us and click “Secretary Prasad announces SunRail decision.”
Secretary Prasad’s SunRail remarks as prepared are below.
Good morning, thank you for joining me today.
As you all know, SunRail is a project that the Department, previous governors, legislatures, local elected officials, and tens of thousands of Floridians have spent years working on to move forward.
At the federal level, Florida Congressman John Mica chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been the most vocal champion of SunRail and commuter rail in Central Florida for nearly twenty years. He has supported this project by securing funding and he has held numerous hearings and public meetings throughout Florida and in Washington.
Most recently, on Tuesday I spent the day meeting with citizens across Central Florida and the five major SunRail funding partners to discuss the framework of the SunRail project.
I laid out the details of the project and I asked them all if there were any new facts or information about SunRail - since they last voted on the project - which they felt should have a bearing on the decision of whether or not to proceed.
This was important because SunRail is a partnership between local, state and federal governments - along with private sector entities - and it has been years in the making.
With longtime advocates in Congress and the Florida Legislature, it has been championed as a much-needed transportation alternative in Central Florida.
The state’s participation in this contractual partnership has been contingent on local government commitments, federal appropriations, and promises by private sector companies.
My recent tour of Central Florida provided an opportunity for any of these groups to explain if they no longer intended to live up to these promises.
They did not, and I have reported this back to Governor Scott.
The partners told me they still support the commuter rail system, and they clearly understand that the local governments will participate in covering any cost overruns.
I spent most of my time listening. I listened to the elected officials, but, most importantly, I listened to the public comments.
I listened to all sides of this debate, and I must tell you that the overwhelming majority of opinion expressed in each of the meetings I attended was in favor of moving forward.
This was extremely helpful and I want to again state that I appreciate everyone’s participation in the meetings this week.
I then spent nearly two hours with Governor Scott on Wednesday to brief him on the meetings and to once again review the history and legal framework of SunRail.
This was the latest in ongoing meetings with the Governor and his staff to present research and opinions from a wide variety of experts.
As many of you know, the SunRail agreement was approved by a previous legislature.
At the conclusion of the 2009 Special Session on the SunRail project, the Florida House voted 84 to 25 to create the current framework of the project. In the Florida Senate the vote was 27 to 10.
These votes, cast by legislators from all across Florida, include affirmative votes by current House Speaker Dean Cannon, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and CFO Jeff Atwater who presided over the Senate at that time.
SunRail was also supported by former Governors Bush and Crist.
Money from both the federal government and here in Florida has already been appropriated for the project.
Details of those appropriations are in the additional information packets that will be made available after my remarks.
Included is a letter from Chairman John Mica, of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, dated just days ago, reaffirming the federal commitment to have funding immediately available for SunRail.
With all due diligence complete, it is time for a decision.
Because of all these previous actions and legal commitments spanning several years, today I am announcing that the Governor has authorized the Department on behalf of the State of Florida to sign the pending Full Funding Grant Agreement.
This will culminate in SunRail’s construction and operation.
This decision was made after a long deliberative process, and the result is that all stakeholders and partners will be held accountable as the project moves forward.
As I mentioned, the SunRail project includes a number of specific commitments from private sector supporters.
The additional information packet has a more complete listing of these entities and their promised actions, but here are a few examples:
- In exchange for the purchase of rail track, CSX has committed to investments in railways all over the state. These investments will support other infrastructure such as helping make Florida’s ports more accessible for trade.
- Walt Disney World has committed to partially subsidize Commuter Bus Transit Service throughout Central Florida to its property.
- Florida Hospital has committed to pay $3.5 million for its own rail stop and to market and subsidize ridership for all its 17,000 employees.
- Tupperware Brands Corporation has committed to donate 10 acres of land to serve as the site for the proposed Osceola Parkway station and to establish a shuttle service to carry employees and others to encourage ridership.
In conclusion, today I will call Peter Rogoff – the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration – and tell him we will sign the Full Funding Grant Agreement once it clears the 60-day review period in Congress and is transmitted to the State.
I will now take your questions.
Looks like Governor Rick Scott is considering whether to cancel Sun- Rail, and send the popular central Florida rail project to the ‘Good Ideas Never Implemented File’. I urge Transit Miami readers to contact the Governor in support of SunRail, the Orlando region’s planned Commuter Rail project. SunRail will serve the core of downtown Orlando and several neighboring towns as well as planned TOD sites. This project is the result of a in a regional visioning process ten years in the making, and will form the backbone of a larger transit network in central Florida.
Transit Miami has been a strong advocate for the Sun-Rail project. Ramping up transit expansion in central Florida is important for the entire state - it is a shift in the state transportation planning culture from highways to transit, and will help institutionalize transit expansion at the state level. Call Rick Scott, and show your support of Sun-Rail! (850)488-4505
It seems there is a new campaign to get the attention of Florida’s elected officials when it comes to public transportation.
IM4Transit is a campaign of the Board of the Florida Public Transportation Association to identify, recruit, and mobilize at least 100,000 pro-transit Floridians.
If you support public transportation in Florida, go to www.im4transit.org/ and show your support. It would be nice to have 100,000 people tell Rick Scott want more transportation options. You can also go to Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/im4transit.
Rick Scott certainly has not made himself popular among transit supporters by rejecting high speed rail funding, holding up Orlando’s SunRail, and criticizing Tri-Rail. His unpopularity extends beyond transit aficionados, as his proposed budget cutbacks affect many people. Last night, 10,000 to 15,000 people demonstrated across the state, protesting his cuts. From 750 to 1,300 people congregated along Broward Blvd. in downtown Fort Lauderdale, chanting “Recall Scott” and “They say cutback, we say fight back.” While anti-Scott protesters covered three street corners and spread about a block down Broward Blvd. at Third Ave., 60 to 100 Tea Party supporters congregated on the remaining corner in front of the First Baptist Church.
Police closed portions of Third Ave. and Broward Blvd. as the crowd swelled. In the video below you can hear the protesters chanting and see them swarming across the street as they did nearly every time the police allowed people to cross.
The Sun-Sentinel article points out that some of the protesters were out because of Scott’s rejection of rail funding, while a Tea Party counterprotester called for Scott to kill SunRail as well. As long as Scott and other libertarians are convinced that subsidizing highways is OK, but subsidizing transit is wasteful, we will remain divided on transportation infrastructure spending.
The Florida state Supreme Court released its response to a lawsuit filed eariler in the week alleging Governor Rick Scott exceeded his authority in rejecting high speed rail money. The ruling states:
The Court has reviewed the petition, response, and reply, has heard oral argument, and has considered the factual allegations and legal arguments. Based on the limited record before the Court and a review of the federal and state law relied on by the parties, the Court has determined that the petitioners have not clearly demonstrated entitlement to …. relief. Accordingly, the emergency petition is hereby denied.
Too bad. Ray LaHood quickly responded by saying “I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens.” No kidding.
Earlier in the day governor Rick Scott used ongoing state funding of Tri-Rail as an example of why HSR would leave the state on the hook for ongoing mantinenance of the system once built. Kudos to Politifact for calling bullshit on this one.
If Scott were on a crusade to end public subsidies for all forms of transportation, that would be one thing. Transportation systems —including roads, buses, ports and trains — more than not require government help.
But Scott is trying to isolate the problem to trains when citing Tri-Rail’s revenue problems as a reason for nixing high-speed rail in Florida. It may be a convenient talking point, but the two systems are hardly alike. In the end, high-speed fail might fail and the projections for ridership might be too rosy. But people shouldn’t use Tri-Rail as evidence any more than they should cite any other form of mass transit. We rate this claim Barely True.
WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today issued the following statement on High Speed Rail in Florida.
This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project that will create jobs and economic development for the entire state of Florida. He asked me for additional information about the state’s role in this project, the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as how the state would be protected from liability. I have decided to give Governor Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami, and to consult with his staff at the state Department of Transportation. He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.
In a shortsighted and cheap politically motivated move, Governor Rick Scott decided Wednesday that he would reject the $2.4 Billion in funding the state had already received from the US DOT, and in so doing set the state back by over 20,000 jobs. The initial Tampa to Orlando link, an 84 mile spur, would have required a $300M contribution from the state, created an estimated 23,000 jobs, and would have set the foundation for an expanded statewide network of HSR.
While not perfect, we here at Transit Miami have been strong advocates of the Tampa/Orlando HSR route, viewing it as the first step toward creating a viable, sustainable, and long-term alternative to the congested roadways and airports throughout the state. Coupled with smart growth oriented land-use policies and an investment in public transportation, HSR had the potential to reshape the Florida landscape from one of unchecked suburban sprawl and congestion, to livable, multi-modal, communities ready for future population growth and able to co
mpete on a global scale.
Apparently when the Governor said that he wanted to, “Make Florida the Job Creation Model for the Nation” he was just kidding.
The truth is Scott has zero intention of providing any solutions that could serve as a model for the nation- and he is going to need those 20,000 jobs he just sent to California to dig him out of the hole he is burying himself in. Just look at his latest rhetoric and policies; they imitate those of his Republican colleagues who pledge fiscal responsibility by reducing municipal programs while remaining oblivious to the true ailments of our government or the role it should play in supporting both businesses and the citizenry of the state. How can he honestly claim that he favors job creation while making decisions that send tens of thousands of high paying construction and engineering jobs to other parts of the country?
Falling in step with his Republican counterparts in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Ohio, Governor Scott’s latest decision has shown Floridians that his policies add nothing of value to our state and perpetuate the ideological thinking of the GOP on transportation infrastructure. The traditional GOP economic lens, likely employed by Gov Scott when analyzing the cost-benefit of transit is apparent in this report by the South Florida Business Journal which notes that “…that the state subsidizes Tri-Rail $34.6 million a year, while passenger revenue covers only $10.4 million of the $64 million annual operating budget.” Comparatively, we spend tens of billions of dollars on highway construction and maintenance of which only a fraction of that amount come from user fees and tax. The economic boogeyman conservatives use against transit projects ignore the facts - we spend more than 4 times what we bring in from car user fees and taxes on highway projects, with diminishing returns on those investments on the land-use and development side.
Despite Scott’s self proclaimed “keen business sense,” his myopic focus on the economics of the initial HSR phase illustrates a clear lack of vision. HSR is intended to be built out over multiple phases, with a second phase connecting Orlando with Miami. The economic vitality of the system is hinged on the completion of the network as a whole and not just the 84 mile segment linking Tampa and Orlando. Duh.
If a cornerstone of the Governor’s agenda is truly job creation then transit should be high on his list of priorities. Public transportation systems are not only more efficient, and cost effective than highways, their construction creates more jobs than highway construction projects -to say nothing of the increased tax base and investment that occurs because of the land-use patterns that accompany transit. Here are some other important facts for our Tea Party inspired governor (and republican legislature) to ponder regarding investment in HSR:
- A recent report from the Smart Growth Alliance (SGA), a national coalition of state and local organizations working for smart growth across the country, analyzed the effect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on job creation. The SGA report concludes that for every ARRA dollar spent on public transportation (e.g. HSR), it yielded 70% more job hours than ARRA dollar spent on highways.
- In analyzing the effect of HSR on the local economy, the Florida Department of Transportation noted that in addition to the 10,000 direct construction related jobs to be created between 2012 and 2014, the project would have created 23,000 job-years of direct construction jobs and more than 48,000 job-years of work through both direct and spin-off employment during the four-year construction period. FDOT further estimates the system would employ approximately 600 people once operation starts and another 500 indirectly on an on-going basis.
- The Economic Development Research Group, in a report to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), notes that the national rate “…can vary from of 24,000 to 41,000 jobs per billion dollars of spending…” The report attributes the broad range to the disparity of jobs created as a result of capital investments in vehicles and facilities vs. spending on transit system operations.
- The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) even touts the benefits of HSR, noting that $87.2B is lost annually due to congestion in the United States, equating to 4.2B hours of lost productivity, and an additional $41B is lost annually due to air traffic congestion.
The economic impact of this decision reaches beyond the current economic climate. Consider the upcoming oil crisis and how defunt our transportation network will be without alternatives. If we thought that the housing bubble and banking crisis was bad for our economy, what do you think is going to happen to our society when gas prices hit $5 , $6, $7 / gallon? Forget about the near ‘depression’ we just avoided - the bedlam that will result will be unlike anything any of us have ever experienced.
The inverse relationship between gas prices and consumer confidence shouldn’t come as surprise given how dependent the average Floridian has become on oil (and by extension a vehicle) for transportation. Given this relationship, where consumers have few alternatives, oil becomes a further inelastic commodity - further restricting our ability to compete in the global economy. It is not a question of if - but when the shit hits the proverbial fan we will have shortsighted and lackluster leaders like Governor Rick Scott to thank. We leave you with this food for thought from Shell Energy (not traditionally a bastion of tree-hugging liberals) from their 2011 report “Shell Energy Scenarios to 2050: An Era of Volatile Transitions”
In broad-brush terms, natural innovation and competition could spur improvements in energy efficiency to moderate underlying demand by about 20% over this time. Ordinary rates of supply growth — taking into account technological, geological, competitive, financial and political realities — could naturally boost energy production by about 50%. But this still leaves a gap between business as- usual supply and business-as-usual demand of around 400 exajoules/year – the size of the whole industry in 2000. This gap – this Zone of Uncertainty – will have to be bridged by some combination of extraordinary demand moderation and extraordinary production acceleration.
Supply will struggle to keep pace with demand. By the end of the coming decade, growth in the production of easily accessible oil and gas will not match the projected rate of demand growth. While abundant coal exists in many parts of the world, transportation difficulties and environmental degradation ultimately pose limits to its growth. Meanwhile, alternative energy sources such as biofuels may become a much more significant part of the energy mix — but there is no “silver bullet” that will completely resolve supply-demand tensions.
By now, we’re sure most of you have heard that Gov Rick Scott has killed the Florida HSR project linking Tampa and Orlando. While we put the finishing touches on our official response and reaction to the Governor’s (imprudent) decision - we’d like to hear your thoughts…
Two of Miami’s most priceless gems have been placed on the chopping block: the Barnacle State Historic Park and the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve.
The Barnacle was built by Ralph Munroe in the 1880s (long before the City of Miami existed, and ancient by local standards). The Commodore was a Pioneer, and much more. He was a genius in Naval Architecture. Biscayne Bay’s shallow waters shaped his thinking, and he defied the deep-draft keel-boat conventions of his era to design and build over 60 shallow-draft sailboats. Most were Sharpies with swing-keels. He literally changed the way that sailboats boats are designed world-wide, including many popular designs we take for granted today. I had the honor to help build a replica of Munroe’s Flying Proa at the Barnacle. This 30′ outrigger sailing canoe was the first multi-hull known to have sailed our Bay. It was 100 years ahead of its time, and is on display at the Barnacle today!
The house is just as unique. It was designed to draw air up from the cool limestone foundation, through the house, and out the copula. He harnessed the “lift” created by the wind to create natural air conditioning… in the 1880s! The shape that made this possible looks just like a Barnacle, hence the name.
Finally there is the Hardwood Hammock, the last remnant in an area that has been paved and built into downtown Coconut Grove. Preserved by the Commodore and his family, who donated it to the State for safekeeping, it is Nature’s last bastion, providing irreplaceable habitat and food for wildlife. The pungent funkiness of Stoppers announces that it still survives to passers-by on Main Highway. The original, much-larger property has been carved up and developed, and only a fraction remains.
The Boathouse, House and Grounds are packed with examples of how this “Miami Original” was shaped by Miami, and as a result shaped the world. Don’t allow those who don’t value Miami’s history and ecosystems to exclude you and your kids from discovering genius, and growing from the experience.
Biscayne Bay has been under assault for over a century during Miami’s development. For many decades it was a cesspool, a dumping area for raw sewage. Channels slashed its bottom, bleeding sediments that are still killing habitats. Once, Mangrove estuaries made Miami’s fishing legendary, and the waters churned with life. Many people wrote that during seasonal bait runs “it looked like you could walk on the fish”. Visitors flocked to Miami for fishing and eco-tourism. Today, marine life is a pale shadow. Sterile sea-walls have no safe-havens to grow seafood, game-fish. They also keep the Bay waters murky, contributing to the death of the remaining sea-grass beds and hiding the wonders of nature from children. These conditions drive away tourist dollars.
The Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve (BBAP) was established to protect the remaining habitats, and even heal the damage caused by greed and carelessness. Away from busy channels the shallow grasses usually manage to filter sediments, keeping the waters as gin-clear as Mother Nature intended. Manatees and fish raise young, protected by the shallows from boat propellers. Wading birds come at low tide, marching in a line across the flats to feed on slow or careless crabs, fish and shrimp.
These the amazing sea-grass beds are among Miami’s least-known treasures. Most drivers on
Rickenbacker and Julia Tuttle Causeways are oblivious, but they would only have to look north from the bridges for a glimpse of Paradise.
The BBAP serves as guardian and educator for all of Biscayne Bay that is not part of the National Park.
I grew up on Biscayne Bay. I have caught fish, and learned to skin-dive, spearfish, sail and waterski there. I wandered grass-flats, and searched mangrove forests for native orchids. Over the years I have been surrounded by sleeping Manatees, schooling Cutlassfish and mating Dolphins. If you want your children to experience these things, do not allow the BBAP to die.
These are just two of the 53 State Parks and Preserves threatened with Closure by the Florida’s new Governor. The others are just as valuable as the Barnacle and the BBAP, but it is for those who know them best to speak for them. Miami and Florida have the habit of throwing forgotten treasures under the bulldozers of development. The first stage is “Demolition by Neglect”, which is provided as “proof” that the public doesn’t care about them. This justifies their later sale or destruction. Don’t let this happen.
Stand up for what belongs to YOU and your kids. Remind your legislator, the governor, and this newspaper that you care. Do nothing, and these places that belong to every Floridian may be lost forever.
Sam Van Leer
Executive Director & Founder
Urban Paradise Guild
With so much hoopla surrounding the recent Republican backlash against HSR and the lingering questions about whether Florida Governor Rick Scott will accept federal money for HSR (despite a recent visit by the Japanese Foreign Minister who advocated stongly on behalf of Japanese rail comanies) I found this discussion about the possibile origins of the backlash said it all:
I’d attribute part of the commentary to a real technocratic frustration with the sorry state of American transportation infrastructure, the sorry state of America’s transportation planning and funding mechanisms, and the sorry state of the Congress that should be trying to fix the problems. But the bulk of the passion can probably be chalked up to the fact that high-speed rail has become a culture war issue. And that’s unfortunate. It also feeds back into the frustration among technocrats, who see the debate over HSR as providing another telling example of an important issue, the merits of which are wholly obscured by identity politics.
from the Online Economic Editor for the Economist, Ryan Avent on his blog The Bellows
Rick Scott, the businessman turned politician who is Florida’s governor-elect, is sure to bring big changes to the State’s transportation and growth management policies (and budgets). Armed with a super-majority republican State Legislature and a businessman’s anit-regulation/anti-tax instinct, Scott has made various statements indicating little support for initiatives like High Speed Rail (an issue he later went back on), and vowing to bring substantial changes to the State growth management agency, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). During the gubernatorial debates Scott commented:
You can go all across the state and developments have been killed by all the regulation, all the paperwork. In fact you have to go to three or four agencies…DCA has killed jobs all across this state. (Politifact Transcript)
Advocates and planners will have to wait and see what the governor-elect has in mind for existing Smart Growth and green transportation policies (to say nothing of his effect on environmental regulations), but the future does not look great. There is hope that Scott will continue to soften his stance against spending any money for the first leg of High Speed Rail in Florida between Tampa and Orlando, especially given the range of support for the project from other republican leaders (and the fact that most of the funding is coming from the federal government).
On the future of HSR from Orlando to Miami, Scott can pass the buck to the feds who are ultimately responsible for the majority of the expense. The outgoing Sen. Lemieux had this to say:
We worked together to get [the first stimulus] money. I think we need to go to Miami, but it will be far more expensive (than the Tampa-Orlando route) and with our current financial crisis and pledge of no more stimulus I would not support more money. It’s not there.
Sun-Rail, Tri-Rail, the anticipated SFECC, and other State DoT funded bicycle/pedestrian transportation programs are likely to face scrutiny and drastically reduced funding unless they can show that they are ‘self-supporting’ (per the the Scott Seven Point Plan). And although highways are not self-supporting, that is not likely to stop Scott from funding roadway expansion, given that his only written statement of transportation policy is a letter of support to the Sate Transportation Builders Association (a road and bridge lobbing group). It sounds like governor-elect Scott wants to get the sprawl machine running again, building highways and subsidizing sprawl- all under the guise of job growth. Let’s hope that Scott sees the opportunity he has to put the nail in the coffin of subsidized sprawl and the undermining economic effect it has on our existing developments.
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