Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Florida funds to aid FEC airport access

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 a financial package of up to $215 million to assist construction of a rail station at Orlando International Airport.

The station would allow eventual service by Orlando SunRail regional passenger rail, whose initial phase is now under construction and Florida East Coast Industries' (FECI) proposed All Aboard Florida service. FECI and the airport reached accord last October on rail service to the airport.

Gov. Scott has set aside $123 million in his proposed budget this year, with more to follow next year, presuming he is re-elected. Scott to this point has proven ambivalent at best, hostile at times, toward expansion of Florida passenger rail services. The proposed budget also must be passed by the state legislature, though Scott expressed optimism that the measure would be accepted.

"We are going, I assure you, to spend these dollars prudently," Frank Kruppenbacher, chairman of the Orlando International board, said to local media.

All Aboard Florida would pay the airport $2.8 million annually for rent, plus up to $1.50 per train passenger who leaves from Orlando. FECI also would spend $50 million to build a maintenance facility at the airport and pay more than $580,000 a year to lease the land for it.

Construction on the All Aboard Florida system, originally hyped to begin in 2013, is now expected to start sometime this year. The higher-speed rail (HrSR) proposal envisions link the airport and downtown Orlando with West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.