Feds have no answers on missing SunRail funding - FOX 35 News Orlando

Feds have no answers on missing SunRail funding

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation visited Orlando but had no answers on when Central Florida might receive the hundreds of millions of dollars it was promised to fund Phase II of SunRail.

Secretary Anthony Foxx is a big supporter of the project, and he lamented the cash not being there when we asked him about it.

"You're speaking to the choir," he laughed.  "That's all I can tell you."

Phase I of SunRail begins service in May, but it will only run from DeBary to Sand Lake Road. Phase II will run north from DeBary to Poinciana and south from Sand Lake Road to Poinciana. Foxx has experience dealing with rail systems from his days as mayor in Charlotte, NC and advised the region to be patient.

"These systems evolve over time, and almost no one is able to get the entire thing built in one fell swoop. It's a process of starting and continuing to expand the capacity over time."

The lack of funding for Phase II is not the fault of the Department of Transportation though. That blame lies with Congress.  

Congress authorized the money back when SunRail originally passed last decade, but only actually appropriated the money for Phase I, not Phase II.  Congressman Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, said it is time to act.

"It's simply not fair. There's just no reason why north Orlando should be the beneficiary of that kind of federal money and south Orlando should be left out in the cold.  It's fine to have a Phase I and a Phase II.  That's fine, nothing can be done all at once everywhere, but Phase II has to be treated like Phase II, and not Phase 52, he said.

The best hope could come in September. That's the deadline for Congress to come up with a new transportation bill.  If it does not happen then, the region will have to put the plans back on the shelf.

FOX 35 has been told repeatedly that Phase II of SunRail will not happen without the federal money.  The feds agreed to pick up 50 percent of the tab for the project.

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