As a special session seems likely on rail issues, opponents of the proposed SunRail commuter system say it's the same old bad deal. The issues: cost, liability for taxpayers and federal protections for railroad workers on the tracks the state wants to buy from CSX for Central Florida commuter rail.
Will taxpayers be liable if CSX, which will continue to operate on the taxpayer-owned lines, causes an accident? Who knows? FDOT isn't producing any documentation showing what the deal is. Lakeland Sen. Paula Dockery has had to put in a public records request to find out. No response so far. What will the cost of the deal be? Who knows? FDOT isn't saying. Will railroad workers, who enjoy federal railroad protections, lose their labor rights? Who knows? FDOT isn't saying.
Yet we're going to have a special lawmaking session next week on the matter, anyway. And the fate of Tri-Rail funding hangs in the balance. So, potentially, does the state's application for high-speed rail money, which partly depends on the state showing more support for rail. AFL-CIO President Mike Williams just wrote a letter asking lawmakers to scuttle the SunRail deal. Expect the unions to make their case in Washington as well, where a certain president owes Big Labor a few favors and where mistrust is high of a Republican-led Legislature that went out of its way to once stop a bullet train plan that they now claim is a must for Florida.
Below is Williams letter. We asked FDOT for comment. Nothing in response. All aboard!