Although 30 years ago state lawmakers promised to build a network of commuter lines, only one, Tri-Rail, which runs from Miami to West Palm Beach, is in operation. A second line, SunRail, which would serve the Orlando area, has been waiting for the legislature to sign off on the project for two years.
“What’s amazing to me is the federal government just looks at Florida and they just shake their heads,” said Jeff Koons is a Palm Beach County commissioner and longtime member of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority that runs Tri-Rail. “You need leadership and we just don’t have it."The problem is a mix of money issues and parochialism. State legislatures are loathe to ask their constituents to pay for a commuter rail system on the other side of the state.
“The bottom line is that people in my district, if ever one or two of them use Tri-Rail, it’ll be few and far between,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations committee who is from New Port Richey north of Tampa. “Why would the people in my district or the Panhandle or Jacksonville have to pay for a train system they’ll never use and that’s in the red?”Meanwhile, as Florida sleeps the federal money that could have gotten more regional rail lines off the ground is going to Utah, North Carolina and New Mexico.