High-speed train to arrive in Florida

Will Guerilus said the only thing he didn’t like about his trip to Miami over spring break was the distance he had to drive.

“It’s a relatively long drive,” said Guerilus, 22, a senior economics student from Vero Beach. “But the weather is nice and it’s a party town.”

A project that has been in the works for years to bring a high-speed rail system to Florida will make it so that students can get to and from their favorite travel destinations in Florida.

November’s groundbreaking will make it a reality.

Nazih Haddad said a new high-speed rail system would reduce travel time to get to and from many popular areas in the state.

“This particular mode of travel would provide an alternative mode of transportation for people who are getting tired of just the usual mode of travel,” said Haddad, staff director for the Florida High Speed Rail Authority, a group appointed by the Legislature to research the project.

Trains on the system would run at speeds of 120 to 125 miles per hour. A trip from Tallahassee to Miami that while traveling at speed limits could take nearly seven hours to complete, would be cut in half to three and a half hours at train rates.

The first phase of the system would run from Tampa to Orlando and after several tests and rider surveys, would branch out throughout the state.

“We see a lot of delays and things on I-4,” he said.

The idea to start a rail system in Florida was presented in 1976 and has worked toward its present standings – that construction on the rail would start as soon as start-up monies are generated.

Reynold Meyer, staff director for the Florida State Senate Committee on Transportation, said the rail would range in cost from $1.7 billion to $2.7 billion depending on suggestions from the Florida High Speed Rail Authority. He said federal funding has been sequestered, but the state was told it would be responsible for funding a rail system.

“The response from the federal level was ‘we don’t have any money.’ The state has to fund a lot of it,” he said.

Haddad said companies in the private sector are seeking ways to help fund the project. Guerilus said he can’t wait for the new system and that legislators shouldn’t worry about the funding shortfall.

“It’s going to be just like the turnpike,” he said. “They’ll get the money back eventually. It would not be a bad investment.”