High speed rail in Florida gaining speed
A high speed rail system in Florida could one day become a reality, but first it must clear a federal hurdle — over $2.5 billion in stimulus funds are needed to get the project rolling.
Florida lawmakers were in Tampa and Orlando Tuesday trying to drum up support for the rail system, which would connect the two cities as the first part of wider plan that would eventually connect all major cities in Florida.
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik has formed a high speed rail advocacy group called “ConnectUS,” which he hopes will lend voice to support the movement.
Turanchik said the high speed rail could create 23,000 jobs in the state, though he admitted that it would have very little immediate impact to Lee County and all of Southwest Florida.
“The immediate benefit for Southwest Florida is a shot in the arm for the state’s economy,” he said. “I would argue that Florida having the high speed rail system will give the state an edge globally.”
If the Orlando-Tampa section were to become a reality, Turanchik said the next phase would be to attempt to connect Orlando to Miami.
Though that section would not be completed until 2017, Turanchik said the Orlando-Tampa stretch could be completed in 2014 and shovels could be in the ground by the end of the year.
Besides the immediate economic benefits, Turanchik said the rail system would also greatly improve safety along the Interstate 4 corridor.
“There are 10 accidents a day and one death every 11 days on I-4,” he said. “This would provide a great transportation option to move back and forth, quickly, safely and productively.”
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has long been a proponent of a high speed rail system in Florida.
He joined Tampa’s and Orlando’s mayors during rallies in both cities on Tuesday, hoping to stir a wave of public support for a portion of the $8 billion the U.S. Department of Transportation has set aside for these type of projects.
For more information, visit fastrailconnectus.com.