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Florida DOT to hold public meetings on high speed rail

(The following story by Dennis Maley appeared on the Bradenton Times website on August 23, 2010.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a series of public information meetings on the controversial Tampa-Orlando high speed rail project August 31 – September 2 in Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando.

The rail project is set to move forward, despite many transportaition experts' concerns over the cost effectiveness and overall usefulness of the project, because of the lack of feeder trains and connectivity of public transportation at the destination sites.

Gene Hughey, President of the Florida Railroad Museum, had little in the way of high hope for the project, despite his belief that high-speed rail should be a major component of our future transportation plan.

"If they want to promote the advancement of rail use, there are a lot better ways to invest that money," Hughey told me recently. "Look at what Amtrak's done by improving their lines in the Northeast corridor. They've removed crossings and increased speeds and they're more efficient than air travel on many of their routes."

Hughey says that Florida would have been better served to lobby for funds to improve its current rail infrastructure, rather than a ground-up system that aims to compete with auto travel, rather than air. The intent of the meetings is to simply brief the public on the project status of this massive public works initiative.

The general public meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at each venue. Rail Enterprise officials will present an overview of the Tampa-Orlando project. Each presentation will be followed by question and answer sessions. Public comment cards will be available.

The public meetings are free, open to the public and require no advance registration. Detailed information and agendas for each of the sessions will be posted at www.floridahighspeedrail.org.
The schedule is:

• Tampa Convention Center: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
• Lakeland Civic Center: Wednesday, September 1, 2010
• Orange County Convention Center: Thursday, September 2, 2010

Each public session will be preceded at 2:30 p.m. in each forum by information meetings for minority-owned and small businesses.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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