High-speed push gains momentum
August 23, 2009
There were plenty of politicians and chamber of commerce types on hand Tuesday afternoon. But I knew it really was serious when I saw former Hillsborough County commissioner and future mayoral candidate Ed "Choo Choo" Turanchik standing in the line of muckety-mucks behind the microphone. He is "Mr. Train" around here because of his endless push for mass transit. He was "Mr. Olympics" when we vied for the Summer Games.
The gathering was at the Stetson Law School building on Tampa Street, that stately structure to your right when coming off southbound Interstate 275 into downtown. It was the third such gathering of the day, with earlier stops in Orlando and Lakeland.
The event was billed as a kickoff rally in Florida's bid to get enough federal money to build the first leg of a proposed high-speed rail system that one day will connect Tampa, Orlando and Miami.
No energy crisis here
The microphone was set up on a second-story outdoor patio, which seemed odd because it was about 50 degrees inside the law school building. I suppose they have to keep those young legal minds running on cool. I couldn't figure out why we were outside until Rep. Kathy Castor, who was running the show, referred to the traffic noise behind her on I-275 and said that all would disappear when they build the high-speed rail.
The idea of a high-speed or "bullet" train has been a thing around here for at least 15 years. Voters even went for it on the ballot but then voted it down when then-Gov. Jeb Bush twisted the idea around and convinced them they didn't know what they wanted.
Well now it's back, and Florida appears to be at the front of the line to get money to build the thing.
Apparently, what makes us the leading contender is that because we've been working on it for so long, the project is "shovel ready," which seems to be the chief requirement for getting money these days. I assume the term "shovel ready" is the new mantra of the Obama administration, which has figured out that shoveling money must be the solution to all our problems.
The advocacy group ConnectUs, which would love for you to go to its Web site at FastRailConnectUs.com, brought in a few local business and labor leaders to show their support.
There are a lot of questions. Who actually is going to ride this thing? What about connectivity? Is there or will there be a logical system of commuter and light rail to go along with it? Will it have a caboose?
Well, look, somebody is going to be getting billions of dollars for a high-speed rail. Why not us?
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