Support emerges for high-speed rail
August 19, 2009
Prospects for high-speed rail linking Tampa, Orlando and Miami got a jolt of local business, labor and political support Tuesday when a grass-roots movement called ConnectUs publicized its backing for Florida's $2.53 billion bid for federal rail project funds.
Florida is expected to file its high-speed rail bid in Washington in September. President Barack Obama is expected to decide by December which projects will be funded from 278 intercity and high-speed rail bids.
"Florida is unified and ready to go," U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said during a rally in Tampa that followed similar events in Orlando and Lakeland. "Florida is leading the pack."
The state delegation expects to have an advantage because the corridor between Tampa and Orlando would operate primarily in the median of Interstate 4 and is "shovel ready" to lay track for 150 mph trains likely driven by electricity.
The Orlando-Miami segment, proposed to be built after the Tampa-Orlando track, could handle speeds up to 180 mph, said Ed Turanchik, a former Hillsborough County commissioner and longtime rail advocate who heads ConnectUs.
Turanchik urged citizens to sign on at FastRailConnectUs.com to show Washington grass-roots support for the state's high-speed rail proposals.
"It represents jobs," said Bill Dever, president of the Florida Gulf Coast Building Trade Council. "It will put tens of thousands of people to work."
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