Thursday, June 11, 2009

SunRail plan, on brink of expiring, racks up $44 million cost

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Florida legislators May 1 rejected a proposed $1.2 billion regional rail system, "SunRail," centered in Orlando and envisioned to serve five nearby counties, but Florida’s Department of Transportation still must honor $44 million in costs owed numerous suppliers.

The costs include $462,000 owed to CSX Transportation, for rail safety inspection, flagging, and signal maintenance. CSX had planned to sell right-of-way to the state as part of the proposal.


State Sen. Paula Dockery, who helped defeat the proposed rail plan, said the cost was  "an outrage," saying FDOT and other SunRail supporters spent "a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars to lead rallies and bus businesspeople upto Tallahassee to lobby this flawed CSX commuter-rail deal." SunRail backers said the costs were necessary to prepare for the proposed service. Moreover, "We don't see this as a waste of money," said Christine Kefauver, representing Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who supported SunRail. "A lot of environmental work has been done that has a shelf life."

FDOT records show that the largest sum, $10.1 million, is owed to EarthTech, the project’s primary consultant. Other contractors reimbursed, or to be paid, include: Lochrane Engineering, $3.4 milllion: WRS Environmental Services, $2.6 million; URS Corp., $1.9 million; and Shutts and Bowen, real estate attorneys, $1.7 million.

Unless other means are found to fund SunRail, the deal struck by CSX and FDOT expires June 30.