by Mitch Perry
Although most experts in the transportation field always said an Orlando-Miami line would ultimately be much more profitable, organizers chose to seek funding initially for Tampa/Orlando, ostensibly because the state already owned the right of way for the route.
But that plan died with Governor Scott's in-your-face rejection. But now, in a move that should delight those who were disappointed a year ago (including perhaps Tea Party activists, since there will be no public funds spent), a private company called Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) announced today that it plans to develop All Aboard Florida, a passenger-rail service that would run 240 miles to Miami, Cocoa and Orlando.
The company says it would use 200 miles of existing tracks between Miami and Cocoa, and build 40 miles of new track into Orlando. Intermediate stations would also be built in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. And in the press release issued by FECI, the system could eventually include connections to Tampa and Jacksonville.
Projected costs? $1 billion, less than half of what the Tampa-Orlando line was expected to cost.
A spokesperson tells progressiverailroading.com that the plan is to launch the system in 2014, a quick timetable enabled by the fact that most of the service will operate along tracks already in service along the Florida East Coast Railway.
When Governor Scott rejected the federal stimulus dollars earmarked for high-speed rail, he said that he was protecting Florida taxpayers from potential cost overruns, even though many of the private companies that hoped to bid for the project had said that they were willing to make up the difference.
The rejection came just months after Hillsborough County voters overwhelmingly rejected a sales tax increase of a penny that would have paid for the beginnings of construction on a light-rail system inside the city of Tampa.