The Sunshine state is about to get a $1 billion, 320-mile, privately financed passenger rail line that will connect two of its most popular tourist destinations and business hubs: Orlando and Miami. Florida East Coast Industries, the company spearheading the project, has announced that the trains—which will top out at 100 mph and won't quite qualify as high speed—should be running by 2014.
FECI estimates that the rail line will take 3 million cars off the road every year.
It wasn't so long ago that Florida Governor Rick Scott notoriously denied his state $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funding for a high speed rail line that would link Tampa, Orlando, and Miami. He claimed that the state couldn't afford to pick up the slack in completing the project, but the whole affair was pretty clearly politically motivated: Recall that during the 2010 congressional elections, high speed rail served as a proxy for out-of-control government spending. Other far right candidates bucked the funds, too—notably, Ohio governor John Kasich and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
So, Scott, who is now incidentally one of the most disapproved-of governors in the nation—evidently there's some corollary between turning down HSR and being widely scorned—might have got some satisfaction in telling the Obama administration to take its rail and shove it. But it turns out that Floridians really do want that rail, after all.
The Miami Herald reports that the "All Aboard Florida" project will serve 50 million people, and will likely be profitable:
After months of study, FECI concluded the new passenger service — to be built and operated without public money — would be not just technically feasible but also profitable, given that some 50 million people travel between Miami and Orlando every year, virtually all of them by car. The studies found substantial “pent-up’’ demand for train service connecting the two, Cumber said. The service would be pitched primarily to business travelers and tourists.Oh, and the project will create 6,000 new jobs, too. Exciting stuff—the rail line will help ease congestion between the two major urban areas, and reduce air pollution in the process. The line will be ready in just two years, since the company is making use of freight rail infrastructure that's already in place.
“We’ve completed due diligence and everything has confirmed our excitement,’’ Cumber said in an interview. “This project is financially viable, and so we’re moving forward with it.’’
And, if the line is as successful as FECI projects, it could inspire renewed interest in other flagging rail efforts; who knows, maybe investors will take another look at Ohio and Wisconsin, too.