About the High Speed Rail project
Some industry experts expect the biggest recipients to be states that have already invested heavily in rail and whose projects are closest to the construction phase.
Those factors could point to Florida as a likely recipient. The state is seeking about $2.6 billion in stimulus funds to build a rail line connecting Tampa and Orlando, a project that business leaders view as a key to luring new companies and jump-starting the Sunshine State's economy. Peak speeds could exceed 150 mph.
Florida has purchased land rights for the project and recently cleared a federal environmental review, clearing major hurdles that many other states haven't, said Nazih Haddad, who manages the state's passenger-rail development programs. The state has agreed to chip in $570 million for the project, on top of other expenses already incurred. Project costs could total $3.5 billion.
With the stimulus funds, construction could begin in mid-2011 and be completed in 2015, creating an estimated 23,000 jobs, Mr. Haddad said.
The state's application to the Federal Railroad Administration includes a request for funds to study a high-speed rail line connecting Orlando and Miami.
I-4 Corridor - Center Poles Typical Section
High Speed Rail - Phase 1 Route - Tampa
Downtown Tampa will be the western terminus for Florida's first high speed rail system. This station will be the first phases only site located in an urban walkable setting.
I-4 Corridor - Side Poles Typical Section
High Speed Rail - Phase 1 - Lakeland
The exact location of the Lakeland station is still in debate. Plant City, Lakeland's immediate neighbor to the west, is lobbying to have the Lakeland station located at the interchange of I-4 and the Polk County Parkway (SR 570).
The other proposed Lakeland site is located as close to Downtown Lakeland as I-4 gets, which is about two to three miles to the north at Kathleen Road. Recently, a third Lakeland site (not indicated on aerial concept plans) has emerged a few miles east of the city were a new college campus is planned.
Typical Bridge Section
High Speed Rail - Phase 1 - Orlando
The Orlando area will have as many as three stops. Disney, International Drive and Orlando International Airport. The rail system's O&M yard will also be constructed in Orlando.
As proposed, the train would start at Orlando International Airport and run along the BeachLine Expressway and Interstate 4 until stopping in east Tampa, a little past Ybor City. It would have stops at the Orange County Convention Center, Walt Disney World (near Celebration) and Lakeland.
No train type has been chosen, though the state prefers a train powered by electricity, most likely from overhead lines, records indicate.
It could reach a top speed of 160 mph, the state estimates, because the route is essentially flat and straight once it moves along I-4. A non-stop run from OIA to Tampa would take about 44 minutes, as opposed to as much as an hour and a half by car.
While the ultimate success of this system is still up for debate among transit advocates, Metro Jacksonville hopes that the political push for rail-based mass transit will eventually reach Jacksonville, sooner rather than later.
For more information: http://www.floridahighspeedrail.org
Article by Ennis Davis