Promoting passenger trains as a transportation alternative in Florida since 1983.  We are citizens who advocate for Amtrak, commuter rail, intercity rail and transit for Florida's future.

The Silver Rail Blog

  • 28 Sep 2009 11:48 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    St. Augustine's newspaper on the potential for Amtrak on the FEC:

    http://www.historiccity.com/2009/staugustine/news/florida/amtrak-fec-corridor-project-on-track-1797

    Funding for this project, as presently envisioned, is reliant upon FDOT receiving Federal stimulus funds for dollars earmarked for high-speed rail.

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 25 Sep 2009 10:52 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    NARP's Ross Capon is quoted in this article from today's Tampa Tribune.

    --Jackson McQuigg

    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/sep/25/251006/florida-leading-contender-high-speed-rail-funding/news-breaking/

    Florida is a leading contender for high-speed rail funding
    As key political factors fall in place, Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando are leading contenders to launch the nation's first true high-speed rail corridor, with 150 mph trains running by 2014.

    On Friday, 40 states will file detailed high-speed rail project applications with the Federal Railroad Administration. In December, President Barack Obama will announce which will get money from the $787 billion federal stimulus plan to generate jobs.

    If Florida gets the $2.5 billion it seeks, it will represent a stunning reversal of political fortunes after 25 years of promise and setbacks that will provide thousands of new jobs as early as 2011, when construction on the 95-mile Tampa-Orlando segment could begin.

    The Florida funding request also covers planning an Orlando-Miami segment that could complete a 361-mile high-speed rail corridor between Tampa and South Florida in 2017.

    That 180 mph-plus East Coast corridor would cost about $8 billion, not including right-of-way purchases. Amtrak could provide additional service from Jacksonville south.

    Potential drawbacks, including construction and operations costs and how much demand there might be to pay $30 for a 64-minute ride from Tampa to Orlando International Airport appear to have been relegated to the background.

    Why? The prospects of jobs at a time when it's common for hundreds of people to vie for a handful of positions.

    "High speed rail will bring an unprecedented number of new jobs to Florida, with the overriding goal of supporting the federal recovery plan," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who has participated in several White House discussions on the topic this year.

    "At the same time, anyone who has traveled around the country or to Europe knows how important the investment can be to modernize transportation," she said. "The high-speed rail project can provide a real shot in the arm you don't see happening from real estate."

    Estimates by those involved in Florida's previous high-speed rail plans indicate as many as 15,000 construction jobs could be required for the Tampa-Orlando leg. Florida's Department of Transportation estimates more than 20,000 would be created over four years for the Orlando-Miami link.

    Florida's prospects

    Interviews with congressional and state officials and local business interests reveal advantages Florida is expected to have when the Obama Administration makes its initial funding choices:

    Environmental plans for the Tampa-Orlando corridor are complete, unlike other U.S. corridors.

    Florida is the only state that has acquired a high-speed rail right of way, the median of Interstate 4, estimated to be worth more than $100 billion.

    Construction could begin as early as 2011, providing the Obama Administration with potential political gains in an important presidential election swing state.

    Forty states are competing for $8 billion. At least $5 billion more from annual federal budgets could be allocated to 10 high-speed corridors nationwide.

    Florida's proponents acknowledge the tough competition, but say it is advantageous that their bid covers the construction of the entire project from Tampa to Orlando, unlike states such as California, where state money would be required in addition to the federal dollars.

    Competitors could seize upon Florida not proposing some state matching money as a point in their favor, National Association of Railroad Passengers executive director Ross Capon said. But Capon said another factor, how operational costs would be covered, could play a role. Those details have not been released.

    Another advantage for Florida is that its lobbying effort enjoys unusual bipartisan participation. Supporters include the Republican governor, both Florida U.S. senators, eight Democratic and three Republican congressmen; 21 state Republican and seven Democratic legislators; and a broad representation of business groups, the advocacy group FastRailConnect.Us.com says.

    Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in June made public comments supportive of Florida's rail plans, with LaHood saying Florida and California were leading contenders. LaHood is scheduled to address a transportation conference in Orlando next month.

    The business community has rallied to the cause, as well.

    "Our company has a strong interest in transportation initiatives that benefit all sectors of the economy," said Becca Bides, spokeswoman for Busch Entertainment Corp. "As a significant employer in both Orlando and Tampa regions, we also are interested in bettering transportation options for our 11,000 employees."

    "We are encouraged by the opportunities that high-speed rail could bring to Florida," Walt Disney World manager of media relations Zoraya Suarez said. "We would work with local officials to place a station for the new system on or near our property, taking into consideration the needs of both tourists and local residents."

    One initial drawback in both Tampa and Orlando would be the lack of state-of-the-art mass transit to provide connections to and from high-speed rail in 2014. Hillsborough County's first light rail lines serving downtown would not be possible until 2018, pending approval of a 1 cent county tax, among other factors.

    More than mobility

    While high-speed rail evokes notions of a fast, comfortable trip commonplace in Europe and Japan, a recent Washington policy shift emphasizes economic development and wise land use that a tandem of state-of-the-art local transit and high-speed rail can promote.

    "My experience is that an investment in transit intersects with land use and economic development," said G.B. Arrington, a principal with the transportation development firm PB PlaceMaking, who helped write a new Federal Transit Administration policy on ranking transportation projects for funding that took effect in July.

    "For places that are successful, it is all about having a long-term vision of a community. Florida's density and activity centers make high-speed rail a logical fit."

    That's the groundwork Lakeland businessman Doc Dockery produced in gaining voter approval in 2000 for a constitutional amendment for a high-speed rail system. Then former Gov. Jeb Bush persuaded voters in 2004 to remove it.

    Former Hillsborough County commissioner Ed Turanchik, who is leading the high-speed rail lobbying in Florida, has invoked the performance of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in his efforts to build support.

    "High speed rail is the Tim Tebow of transportation," Turanchik said. "It's a game changer.

    Facts:

    Speed:
    Up to 150 mph between Tampa and Orlando, averaging 86 mph; 180 mph on the Orlando-Miami segment, averaging 102 mph. By contrast, Amtrak's Acela service between Boston and Washington is billed as high-speed rail, but the trains average only about half their possible top speed of 150 mph because of track limitations and en route stops.

    Travel time:
    Tampa to Walt Disney World:

    High speed rail: 42 minutes
    Car: 78 minutes

    Tampa to Orlando International Airport:
    High speed rail: 64 minutes
    Car: 88 minutes

    Annual ridership: 2.8 million to 3.2 million passengers, with trains making 14 to 22 round trips daily on the Tampa-Orlando corridor.

    Estimated costs from Tampa: $25 one-way to Disney; $30 one-way to Orlando International Airport

    Yet to be answered:

    Can people really give up their cars?


    A report by the Washington-based Cato Institute released earlier this month warned that "high speed rail is not 'Interstate 2.0,'" a network that would transform national transportation the way the Eisenhower Administration's Interstate highway program did.

    The average American traveled 4,000 miles on interstates in 2007, but would only travel 60 miles a year on high speed rail, the Cato report stated.

     

  • 22 Sep 2009 2:58 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)
    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/sep/22/high-speed-rail-proponents-want-more-support-tampa/news-money/


    Rail proponents want more support for Tampa-Orlando route

    By TED JACKOVICS  | The Tampa Tribune

    High-speed rail advocate Ed Turanchik said he has gathered 5,000 members for the FastRailConnectUs.com group he created in mid-August, backed by a consortium of local business groups.

    This morning, Turanchik called for additional business support to lobby
    the Obama administration to select the Tampa-Lakeland-Orlando high speed rail corridor in December to receive $2.5 billion in federal stimulus
    funds.

    Turanchik outlined a range of potential business benefits to the Tampa
    Bay area if the rail line were begun as envisioned in 2011 and completed
    by 2014 to a group of about 75 people at a Tampa Downtown Partnership gathering:

    High-speed rail connections could serve as a recruiting tool for the
    Tampa Convention Center, with groups holding conferences in Tampa able to travel the 60 miles to Disney in a half-hour or so on 150 mph trains.

    Visitors to Orlando could take a high-speed train from Orlando
    International Airport and the International Drive hotel complex to Tampa
    to visit local venues like Busch Gardens and make connections to the
    Pinellas beaches.

    High speed rail connections could strengthen development of the "I-4
    high-tech corridor."

    Residents of the Tampa area, for example, could seek employment in
    Lakeland and Orlando, which could pay off when job opportunities arise.

    While Turanchik did not elaborate on the point, local companies in the
    past have cited instances where recruitment of high-skilled
    professionals, such as engineers, has been thwarted because
    opportunities for spouses did not exist locally.
  • 19 Sep 2009 11:03 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    More commuter rail may be headed to Central Florida, which would utilize shortline railroads in that part of the state.

    The effort is being called Orange Blossom Express.

    The Central Florida Daily Commercial newspaper, based in Eustis, has been chronicling this effort for some time now.

    Here is a link to a recent article on the subject from that paper: http://www.dailycommercial.com/PrinterFriendly/091909chamber

    And, from the Orlando Sentinel: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/lake/orl-lklake-train-commuter-090809090809sep08,0,4977163.story

  • 18 Sep 2009 1:34 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    Earlier this week, the Senate directed Amtrak to allow rail passengers traveling on trains with checked baggage service to carry firearms in their checked bags.

    Amtrak-- which allowed this practice as late as 2002 but banned it after the passenger train bombings in Madrid, Spain, has pushed back on this requirement.

    This editorial from the New York Times certainly provides one view on the subject:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/opinion/18fri3.html?th&emc=th

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 05 Sep 2009 12:05 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    http://www.examiner.com/x-10977-Jacksonville-Transportation-Examiner~y2009m9d4-Commuter-rail-for-the-First-Coast-Yes-but

    This interview with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown aide Nick Martinelli speaks to the question of commuter rail proposals for the Jacksonville area.

    Preliminary plans for commuter rail in Jacksonville will be released on September 24.

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 05 Sep 2009 12:00 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    Following is a link to the National Public Radio All Things Considered series on high-speed rail which ran this week.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112442142

    Florida's proposed plans to build high-speed rail Tampa-Orlando-Miami received extensive attention in the series.

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 29 Aug 2009 5:42 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    FRA has identified truly shovel-ready rail projects which are eligible for the first round of high-speed rail stimulus program monies.

    Florida's SunRail may just be a winner.

    This week's NARP Hotline News is required reading: http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/hotline/more/hotline_619/

    --Jackson McQuigg

     

  • 24 Aug 2009 9:52 AM | Anonymous

    John and I would like to thank everyone for their condolences on the death of my son.  We will miss him.  Billy is with our Lord and we will see him again in the hereafter.

    Billy was a wonderful person.  He was my rock and the foundation of our family.  I would also like to thank those of you who sent flowers/cards/donations.

    Sincerely

    Barb & John Thomas

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