Friday, November 5, 2010

Public Hearing High Speed Rail

I decided to go to a public hearing to learn a little bit about the proposed high speed rail system. Florida has been a candidate for the system since the 1980s. The fast population growth, flat terrain, large number of tourists and distance between cities make Florida an ideal candidate for high speed rail. On January 10, President Obama announced a $1.25 billion award to Florida as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. These funds will start construction of the Tampa-Orlando high speed rail corridor. In May of 2010 Florida received $66.7 million in ARRA funds to take the project 30% of the way in terms of design, ridership projections and to prepare bid documents in early 2011.

The 84 mile line will run from the Orlando International Airport to down town Tampa with a stop at Disney of course. The room was lined with maps on easels that showed the proposed route. The project will be built in the median of I-4. Bridges and overpasses were built higher for years to accommodate the train. The train will reach speeds of 168 m.p.h. The system will have 5 stops, Orlando Airport, The Orange County Convention Center, Disney World, Lake or Polk County and Downtown Tampa. Each station will have connections to bus routes. The system should be operational in 2015 , so expect four years of construction on I-4. I am sure this will not cause any traffic problems or rubbernecking. Tourists should be thrilled, but the average Orlando resident will have little reason to use the system.

After the presentation, the floor was opened for questions or concerns. One woman just expressed her concern that the system have good connections to bus routes. A man stood and started talking about his dreams of a system that transported cars as well as passengers. He was told that to get the line operational, they had to use proven existing technology. The public hearing was over so fast that I didn't finish my sketch. I walked to Panera Bread to finish it up while having dinner.

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