Plans for regional passenger rail service in central Florida are in jeopardy following a Florida state Senate vote Thursday rejecting the $1.2 billion project by a 23-17 vote. In a last-ditch vote Friday evening, the Senate again spurned the measure, this time by a 23-16 margin.
Supporters of SunRail service, planned for five central Florida counties in the Orlando metropolitan area, appeared resigned to the outcome. “It'll take some maneuvering to get it done. I think the forces of evil have won," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
The state Senate Friday afternoon was to consider one last attempt at passage, with language added to the measure approving a $200 million insurance policy necessary to operate train service. Supporters were successful in obtaining a two-hour extension of the 6:00 p.m. close of the current legislative session, in order to bring the issue up for one last vote.
The project has been supported by Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, but 15 Republican senators voted against the proposal Thursday. One, Sen. Paula Dockery, was cautiously optimistic, noting, "We still have one day [Friday] to go. There's always a few tricks in the book."
SunRail, a proposed 61.5-mile route roughly paralleling Interstate 4, ran into trouble when state legislators objected to provisions protecting CSX Corp. from liability in the case of an accident. CSX would remain as a tenant on the right-of-way following its sale by CSX to the Florida Department of Transportation for $600 million.