July 22, 2014

CSX connection seen in lawmaker’s rail support

ORLANDO, Fla. — House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) wants to privatize Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which is seen by critics as a first step toward destroying Amtrak.

In his home state, Mica opposed using state funds for a now-mothballed high-speed rail project to link Tampa and Orlando.

Yet Mica is actively supporting state financing for construction of a $1.2 billion, 61-mile Orlando commuter rail project – SunRail — that, according to The New York Times, is ranked by the federal government “as one of the least cost-effective mass transit efforts in the nation.” Florida taxpayers could pay some $640 million of the project’s costs, says The New York Times.

SunRail would link suburban communities, requiring riders to use a bus at origin and destination.

Says The New York Times, “[S]keptics question whether Mr. Mica’s real goal is to give a taxpayer-financed gift to CSX, the freight rail giant and a generous Mica campaign donor, which would get $432 million for its tracks and for upgrades to tracks it owns elsewhere in the state.”

The newspaper quotes Republican FlorIda State Senator Paula Dockery that Mica’s “dedication to SunRail is not for mass transit — it is for helping CSX to get government funds for its private freight lines.”

Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, froze state four contracts involving SunRail, says The New York Times.