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SunRail [Phase 1 Completed]

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There's another 'wild card' worth mentioning here. His name is John Mica. And he has inordinate pull in Congress. I'm getting good vibes about this one. I sense a lot of political will and capital coming together (along with a resevoir of sympathy for an area considered beleagured with traffic congestion).

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There's another 'wild card' worth mentioning here. His name is John Mica. And he has inordinate pull in Congress. I'm getting good vibes about this one. I sense a lot of political will and capital coming together

Possibly true, but if federal money comes through Mica it will be through special congressional appropriation and not from the Federal Transit Administration. And after the wave of criticism over the thousands of special projects in SAFETEA-LU, many seen as unmitigated pork, a $250 million appropriation may be hard to pull, even with Mica

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Possibly true, but if federal money comes through Mica it will be through special congressional appropriation and not from the Federal Transit Administration. And after the wave of criticism over the thousands of special projects in SAFETEA-LU, many seen as unmitigated pork, a $250 million appropriation may be hard to pull, even with Mica

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Every metro in the USA that is Orlando's size has some kind of rail transit plans on the books and looking for the Feds to pay for part of it. And they all have powerful representation in congress chasing after a very limited pool of money. Congress created the New Starts program to prevent the pork barrel manuavers that you guys are discussing here and it is not likely that Mica is going to attach a $250M attachment to a bill that will make it through the Congress and be signed into law. Orlando is going to have to get in line with the rest of the USA and prove that it is building a system that meets FTA requirements.

As to the earlier question about building a system using the $200M in state money. If the federal funds don't come through, then it doesn't make sense to spend $200M on something that will never be finished. My guess is the state money is contingent on getting FTA approval to build the line.

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What I say here is with a happy tone! I say that because it seems things are getting pretty heated here, and I'd like to weigh in but without any angriness. Happy people=happy world!!

In my opinion, Orlando is in this situation with the commuter rail because of poor leadership, and extreme shortsightedness on the part of city planners, not to mention very little cooperation from the surrounding communities. So we have to pay the price for that, which we are now doing.

Take the toll roads for example. Orlando is the largest city in America that has only 1 (one) toll free interstate. There is no other major city that depends so heavily upon toll roads. A lot of people don't want to pay for toll, so they get on Colonial or 436 instead of E-W Expressway or the Greenway. Or just turn I-4 into a parking lot.

Don't get me wrong, I love Orlando, every city has it's problems, especially when it comes to mass transit/traffic congestion. But this transit thing has to be it's weakest point, by far.

I think part of the problem as well was that Orlando grew so fast, by the time people realized how large it was, it was already too late.

I hope everyone has a good holiday, just kick back and relax if possible! :)

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I just wanted to know how would all this growth in Orlando and it's mtero affect mass transit. Like in about 20years the population will be way more than now in Orlando. But how would we deal with crowded conditions? and no rails that go through the city.

Edited by cameronm

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I just wanted to know how would all this growth in Orlando and it's mtero affect mass transit. Like in about 20years the population will be way more than now in Orlando. But how would we deal with crowded conditions? and no rails that go through the city.

I think we're headed the way of Los Angeles. In order to get anywhere you must have a car. Unless there is an immediate change and all of a sudden massive cooperation amongst the various local entities occurs, I think that's the kind of situation we're looking at.

I said this in another post today but it really belongs here anyway. Orlando is the largest city in America that has only 1 toll free interstate running through it. The rest are toll roads. Does anyone else find this odd, or slightly embarrassing? Or is it just me? I don't know any of the politics behind it, I just know what I face each day when I commute. It's only going to get worse with the population growth.

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I think we're headed the way of Los Angeles. In order to get anywhere you must have a car. Unless there is an immediate change and all of a sudden massive cooperation amongst the various local entities occurs, I think that's the kind of situation we're looking at.

I said this in another post today but it really belongs here anyway. Orlando is the largest city in America that has only 1 toll free interstate running through it. The rest are toll roads. Does anyone else find this odd, or slightly embarrassing? Or is it just me? I don't know any of the politics behind it, I just know what I face each day when I commute. It's only going to get worse with the population growth.

I think it's rather obscene that we're being taxed twice to drive our cars. Where's the Ax The Tax guy when you need him? Guess he doesn't mind being taxed twice.

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OK, I'll apologize. But really, Dale, you should know better. monsoon is right; John Mica's position and influence really doesn't put us in a better place than anywhere else. A so-so rail system proposal in a city that doesn't really get what rail will do for it looks very unattractive compared to some of the all-star new transit cities that have been developing systems in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, the pot of cash for all these candidates is constantly dwindling.

I'm not writing this because I'm simply Orlando-scarred and cynical, either. I work in transportation and transit planning. I know that it is extremely difficult to get funding these days. I am not making up any of what I say: 30 transit projects applied for funding from the federal government last year and only four received funding agreements from the FTA. The current culture of the FTA under SAFETEA-LU seems to be not to let transit projects advance.

Metro.m is also right in saying that regardless of the political clout you have in Washington, there are plenty of people with big noses ready to shoot you down if you try to pass through pork projects. After SAFETEA-LU, people are hyper-sensitive to what they see as pork. It will be many years, certainly after the creation of the next major transportation bill, before that exaggerated awareness is stepped back.

I will admit to being cynical, but I know (for the most part) what I'm talking about. I wouldn't post with such specialized and technical language otherwise. Please assume that my intent is not to bring down everyone's spirits but rather to point out a few facts that people seem happy to overlook (or legitimately may not know about) in their excitement over the prospect of Orlando getting its own urban rail system.

I am a believer in public transit and a strong sense of public welfare, but Orlando is simply not a rail city. We have neither the density nor the culture of public transit to really get away with it. Miami's Metrorail never captured the ridership that eager planners spun it into having the potential to capture, and partially because of that the federal government has become increasingly tight on whom they'll give money to. It's hard and you have to have full support. Many of the local governments involved in this case are not on board yet. As they control land use decisions, their support and full understanding is crucial, and this rail project hasn't yet expressed that it understands that.

Edited by bande_originale

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The easiest way to get this thing built, is to pay for it (at least a scaled back phase 1) yourselves, such as what Houston did with its light rail line a couple of years ago, after being denied funding.

The current Phase I is estimated to cost $196 million and it looks like lots of money could be saved by building smaller stations with at-grade pedestrian crossings, instead of building pedestrian bridges. So just put a good affordable and workable plan together, try to sell it to the public and put it up for a vote.

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For amounts less that $75M, the New Starts program can be skipped and the local congressmen can simply ask congress for the money. This is what Nashville did for their commuter rail system.

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I was recently interviewed by a visiting FTA official regarding the scoring of this (commuter rail) project. Needleess to say, after a tour of Downtown Orlando, the hospitals, and Downtown Winter Park, they were very suprised that there was a viable City down here (they were from Boston). I also gave copius amounts of information on proposed development to bolster our case; my impression was that we'd have a pretty high ranking with all of the background work.

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bande -

No hard feelings. Although why should I 'know better' ? I suppose what I don't understand is why, to my knowledge, that our local news sources have not mentioned uncertainty as regards fed funding as a potential roadblock. Only two potential problems have been referenced: (1) Will CSX share the rails ? (2) Will the four counties and their respective communities continue to cooperate ?

How is it not possible that Mica is privy to (positive) indicators that you and I are not ?

Edited by Dale

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I mean, good grief ! The Sentinel has gone so far as to fret about the recalcitrance of a tiny town called Edgewood, but not about the uncertainty of fed money. Surely if such money were subject to a type of crapshoot you'd think they would have factored that in by now.

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I can't speak specifically for the Sentinel but the media in general does a very poor job these days in doing the proper research before they publish news to the public. They instead prefer to concentrate on the sensational, crime and gossip which makes up the bulk of what passes for news these days in the USA.

If you do a search here at UrbanPlanet, there is a a pretty good thread that describes the New Starts program and how it parcels out money. The TTA in Raleigh/Durham has recently found out to its dismay that it most likely will not get its full federal funding letter for its commuter rail line despite 10 years of work and over $100 million in Federal funds already being spent on it. The cost of their system went from $100M to $1B mainly due to costly requriements from the freight lines who wanted to profiteer at the building of the line, and the ridership projections were not enough to justify the cost in the Feds eyes. And the TTA had even gotten to the point of ordering trains. So nothing is certain until the Feds make the decision.

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I can't speak specifically for the Sentinel but the media in general does a very poor job these days in doing the proper research before they publish news to the public. They instead prefer to concentrate on the sensational, crime and gossip which makes up the bulk of what passes for news these days in the USA.

If you do a search here at UrbanPlanet, there is a a pretty good thread that describes the New Starts program and how it parcels out money. The TTA in Raleigh/Durham has recently found out to its dismay that it most likely will not get its full federal funding letter for its commuter rail line despite 10 years of work and over $100 million in Federal funds already being spent on it. The cost of their system went from $100M to $1B mainly due to costly requriements from the freight lines who wanted to profiteer at the building of the line, and the ridership projections were not enough to justify the cost in the Feds eyes. And the TTA had even gotten to the point of ordering trains. So nothing is certain until the Feds make the decision.

This money if for the FTA... not just commuter train. It is going to fund new roads and I-4 expansion. In the news they made it seem as if the money was already awarded... but might not be rationed out as fast as they hoped.

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I'll have to agree with the assertions on how the media distorts the funding picture. I admit to being completely ignorant when it comes to understanding how fed funding works for local projects, etc. But when you read these stories in the paper, it comes across as though the fed just writes one big check and says "Here ya go! Good job", when in fact it is obviously not that way at all.

Edited by GRS328

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This money if for the FTA... not just commuter train. It is going to fund new roads and I-4 expansion. In the news they made it seem as if the money was already awarded... but might not be rationed out as fast as they hoped.

Yes and money alloted for highways is totally separate from that alloted to other transit. The FTA awards money for specific projects and localities are not allowed to redirect that money elsewhere.

The FTA runs the New Starts program which specifically addresses how rail projects are to be funded with federal money.

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The 2007 Bush Budget that was release this week did not include any New Starts funding for 2007. However the Central Florida Commuter Rail did receive a $11M Federal allotment. It looks as if the Orlando area will have to wait at least another year before getting the required FTA transit full funding letter which would allow it to begin construction.

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It's still in preliminary engineering. From what Jaybee said the FTA reviewers seemed to have a good impression on their land use review, but FTA monitors the process in all stages of project development-- and this one's not even through NEPA yet. 2009 was always a longshot; I don't see how they can possibly make it if they can't secure the federal funding this year. I highly doubt FDOT is willing to pony up 75%; the local governments, alreadly skeptical of transit, have been told that they only need to come up with a combined quarter. They don't want the project badly enough to come up with any more money.

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That is correct. According to the FTA's update, the CFCR has not yet made a formal request for a FFGA (full funding grant agreement). Looks like that might happen for 2008, and the money granted for 2007 were funds by the Feds to assist with the application, design and study process required to make the application.

Given this schedule, I think it very unlikely the system will be operating by 2009, though they could have the green light to move forward with it by then. The state throwing in $200M is certainly going to help the process get approval.

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