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It is, of course, essential Rick Scott lore that our budget-cutting governor nixed a federally funded high-speed rail project
because it used too much taxpayer money. As little sense as that move made, the governor has always been clear that he favors private enterprise over the government providing... well, anything.
So Scott might have no choice but to accept the news that Florida East Coast Industries, the company that runs the FEC freight railway along our coast, has announced plans to open a privately funded passenger rail service by 2014.
A news release sent out by the company says that trains will run between South Florida and Orlando in three hours, which is a little bit less time than it takes in an average car on the Turnpike with a casual disregard for speed limits. The route will combine 200 miles of existing tracks -- the ones you see freight trains slogging along, holding up traffic -- with 40 miles of new track heading inland from Cocoa to Orlando.
From the announcement:
By connecting the most visited city in the United States with South Florida's business and vacation destinations, the passenger rail project, called All Aboard Florida, is designed to serve Florida's growing number of business travelers, as well as families and tourists traveling for pleasure.
Well, that sounds fantastic. We're sure the grandmas and Germans at Disney World might be tempted to pop down to South Beach for an extra couple of days. But for one of the pitfalls of operating passenger trains on dedicated freight lines, look to Amtrak: Those trains sometimes have to pull over for hours to let a scheduled freight train keep its timetable.
The FEC lines, of course, follow Henry Flagler's original rail line along Dixie Highway that brought the first influx of tourists to our fair swamp. More corporate optimism for your morning:
By adding an entirely new travel choice, the All Aboard Florida passenger rail service will provide a high‐quality experience for travelers. The system will include business‐ and coach‐class service with advance purchase reserved seating, gourmet meals, Wi‐Fi, and the ability to work productively throughout the entire trip. In addition, stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando mean convenient transfers to Metrorail, Metromover or SunRail, allowing passengers to reach their final destination.
FECI began a feasibility analysis for the project several months ago. Additionally, an investment grade ridership study and engineering work to design the system are underway. Today's announcement marks the beginning of working in depth with local, state and federal officials, as well as the communities along the route.
We're going to follow this project with interest and will update more when we've spoken to the company and fielded the inevitable criticism that this project will inspire.
Not so fast, guys. It's private enterprise!
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