High-speed rail gets green light from Florida lawmakers

Florida will become the launch pad for high-speed rail innovation, just as it was for space travel.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

It looks like Florida will become the launch pad for high-speed rail innovation, just as it was for space travel.

This week, Florida lawmakers approved a three-phase plan to introduce a high-speed rail network to the Sunshine State. The plan, partially contingent on federal stimulus dollars, would begin the planning and construction of statewide service, starting in the Tampa-Orlando-Miami corridor.

"The action by the Legislature ushers in a major chapter in US mass transit," Roland Little of West Palm Beach Rapid Transit Examiner points out. "In the next few years as Florida becomes the third largest state population in the country, both through tourism and family relocations, its roadways are expected to reach critical mass."

Little also notes that "Florida transportation planners will be unveiling rail technologies never before attempted in the US. So the Sunshine State, just as with aerospace sciences, will become the launch pad for new rail innovation."

Planners envision the Florida high-speed rail system providing  travel between Florida's major cities at speeds of 120 mph or greater.

Currently, several high speed rail systems operate in the United States, Europe and Asia. In the US, Amtrak's Acela Express trains operate at speeds in excess of 135 mph between Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

In preparation, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) invested heavily in the preservation of the high speed rail corridor within the median of Interstate 4.  Florida's proposed high speed rail system will be constructed on tracks or overhead guideways completely separate from automobile traffic. The estimated costs for the two phases are $3.5 billion for the Tampa to Orlando route, and more than $8 billion for the Orlando to Miami route.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced in November that it would award $8 billion in federal stimulus money to develop high-speed-passenger-rail service to various state applicants this winter, probably by January 2010. Florida seeks $2.6 billion of those funds.

Interest in high-speed rail in the United States is at an all-time high, with projects also proposed or in the planning stages in California and Texas. California is currently working on high-speed rail plans that would connect San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with a 190-mile-per-hour bullet train.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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