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How SunRail (approved) is a worse deal than high-speed rail (rejected)

Gov. Rick Scot cancelled high-speed rail earlier this year but just allowed SunRail to go forward.

The big differences between the two? Florida taxpayers are far more on the hook for SunRail.

And the ridership is smaller. And it's more expensive per mile. And SunRail carries the promise of fewer jobs.

And the lure of high-speed rail money from the feds was used to persuade fence-sitting legislators to approve SunRail at a special lawmaking session in 2009. But once SunRail was approved, high-speed rail was negged.

Bait and switch?

Anyway, here's side-by-side comparison from January.  Download Sun&HSR. What looks like a better deal to you?


Costs to State and Local Taxpayers for SunRail and High Speed Rail

30 Year Horizon



High Speed Rail


$2.66 billion


$2.65 billion


61.5 miles of existing freight rail to be shared by commuter passengers and heavy freight in Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola Counties

17 stations


84 miles of new dedicated track exclusively for passengers on state-owned right-of-way of I-4 between Tampa and Orlando

5 stations

State taxpayer obligation over 7 years:


Minimum: $901 million

State taxpayer obligation over 30 years:         Minimum: ZERO

Maximum: $280 million


Local taxpayer obligation over 30 years (Volusia, Seminole, Orange 

and Osceola Counties):

Minimum: $526 million

Local taxpayer obligation over 30 years:



Federal funding

$684 million*


*Potential funding, not guaranteed– any shortfall will be split 50/50 by state and local taxpayers

Federal funding

(during  construction phase):

TOTAL: $2.39 billion guaranteed


Farebox: (determined by ridership and concessions)

$510 million estimated

(ANY shortfall will be paid by state taxpayers in the first 7 years and by local taxpayers in years 8-30)

Farebox: all risk of ridership, operations and maintenance are assumed by the private operator that is chosen through a Request for Proposal (RFP)


Construction Cost Overruns:

Split 50-50 by state and local taxpayers***

Construction Cost Overruns:

Assumed by the private operator that is chosen through a competitive RFP

Job creation:

8,000 direct jobs for construction of stations and upgrades to existing track.

Job creation:

23,000 direct jobs during the 3-4 year construction period

Private investment:


Private investment:

Potentially a $400 million cash investment

January 21, 2011

*** Note: this is a reprint of a Jan. 21 document. Today, FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said the locals have promised to cover all cost over-runs. Still waiting to see if that's in writing. 
****  Prasad said there would be private-sector investment in SunRail. However, the investments appear to be add-ons to the original SunRail project, and therefore don't go to the core of the costs of Central Florida commuter rail. Those investments are:

·         In exchange for the purchase of rail track, CSX has committed to investments in railways all over the state. These investments will support other infrastructure such as helping make Florida’s ports more accessible for trade.

·         Walt Disney World has committed to partially subsidize Commuter Bus Transit Service throughout Central Florida to its property.

·         Florida Hospital has committed to pay $3.5 million for its own rail stop and to market and subsidize ridership for all its 17,000 employees.

·         Tupperware Brands Corporation has committed to donate 10 acres of land to serve as the site for the proposed Osceola Parkway station and to establish a shuttle service to carry employees and others to encourage ridership.