High Speed Rail in Florida
Frequently Asked Questions
DRAFT July 2009 DRAFT
Does Florida have a chance to compete for these Federal dollars?
Yes, the financial contribution by the state should be given a considerable amount of
weight in the selection process. Key competitive elements of Florida’s proposal include;
Florida has already spent $30 million to complete environmental studies on a
high-speed rail route from the Tampa Bay area to Orlando.
The state has reserved right of way on I-4 for a train, which is estimated to be
equivalent to a $1.5 billion contribution.
The distance between Tampa and Orlando is perfect to compete with airlines,
and the terrain is flat with very few obstacles.
The possibility of later extending the system south to Miami and north to
Jacksonville also works in Florida’s favor.
Florida can guarantee high ridership due to both visitors and residents.
As a major tourist destination, Central Florida is also a perfect location for
showcasing the new technology with and average of 48 million of visitors a year.
This competitive advantage was reinforced in early June 2009 when Vice President Joe
Biden stated that Florida had a good chance of securing funding to develop the corridor
from Tampa to Orlando and on to Miami.
Why is the Tampa-Orlando Corridor the focus?
The Florida High Speed Rail Authority (FHSRA) Act mandated that the first phase of the
system to be built would be from Tampa to Orlando with an extension to St. Petersburg.
Since the Tampa to Orlando part was prioritized by the FHSRA as the first leg, it is the
most competitive portion with considerable work and investments already made.
How will HSR fit into TBARTA?
The current HSR proposal and the TBARTA Regional Master Plan both propose to
utilize the same Tampa station (former jail site). If these two plans come to fruition,
there will be seamless interaction that would move residents into and around our region
from one hub.
Will the system continue to expand statewide?
Yes, we have been informed that FDOT has crafted the initial pre-application to include
funding to plan for future expansions to Miami and Jacksonville.
Will the HSR serve our entire Tampa Bay Region?
If both the current HSR corridor and the TBARTA Regional Master Plan are
implemented and there is a seamless transition between the two systems. HSR will
bring tourists and workers into and out of our region, while TBARTA will move them
throughout our region. This is a model that many urban hubs use, where the heavy rail
(or in our case High Speed Rail) moves passengers longer distances and then the local
system (TBARTA) takes passengers to their final destination.
While the FHSRA designed a leg of the system (Phase 1. Part 2) to cross from Tampa to
St. Petersburg, we do not believe this leg of the system was included in the pre-
application. More discussion needs to be had to clarify what future plan FDOT has to
cross the bay.
What is the economic development potential?
The Orlando-Tampa connection would create between 25,000 and 42,000 new jobs
according to the economic forecasting center at Florida State University. Many of these
jobs would be considered “green jobs” which would promote the development of a green
economy in Tampa Bay. In addition to this direct job creation, further economic potential
will be derived from the influx of additional visitors allowed by the system. These tourism
numbers will be developed as the HSR effort moves forward.
Do we support any one High Speed technology?
No, we do not have the expertise to discuss or promote any particular position on train
routes, number of stations, or various train technologies. This has been studied
extensively over a number of years by those who are experts in this field. We will not be
working to advance any particular position, but will instead be working to support the
application developed and proposed by FDOT.
Is there an opportunity to have input into this plan?
From what we understand from the Federal Railroad Administration, Florida’s best
opportunity is to submit the most advanced project, which is the current alignment along
the I4 corridor. There is concern that any changes to this plan could greatly decrease
our opportunity to compete. However, if the state is awarded funding to proceed there
will be opportunities submit comments and suggestions during the bid process.
How will Florida’s High Speed System be paid for?
If an application is submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration and selected for
funding, this grant money could fund all or part of the capital costs of the system.
Stimulus money may not, however, be used for planning or operating costs. The Florida
DOT maintains that the system will be operated on the revenue generated by the
system. We are working to clarify and understand these numbers.
What is the potential alignment along this corridor?
The 2002 Request for Proposals (RFP) required that each Proposer provide a proposal
for the alignment from Tampa to Orlando. This alignment utilized the I-4 median from the
Tampa area to Orlando International Airport using either SR 417 (the GreeneWay) or SR
528 (the Beeline) in the Orlando area, along with a stop in the Lakeland area. The RFP
also allowed for potential station locations near the Osceola County Line (the Walt
Disney World area) and the Orange County Convention Center. The Authority identified
the alignment that included the SR 417 – GreeneWay route as the preferred alternative
at the October 2003 meeting, but changed its preferred alternative to the SR 528 Beeline
route in November of 2004.