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Fla. bullet train to run to Disney resort

(The Associated Press distributed the following article on October 27.)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A proposed bullet train across central Florida will run directly to the Walt Disney World resort from Orlando International Airport, bypassing the taxpayer-funded Orange County Convention Center en route to Tampa, a state panel voted Monday.

The Florida High Speed Rail Authority's 7-1 decision ended a debate that has simmered since voters, in a constitutional amendment passed in 2000, mandated the construction of a bullet train network spanning the state.

Later in the meeting, the authority selected Fluor-Bombardier, builder of the Northeast corridor's Acela, now the nation's only bullet train line, by a vote of 6-2.

The other contractor vying to run the system was Global Rail Consortium, a partnership of several firms that has no experience in developing a system on the scale projected for Florida.

Disney sold the authority on the potential revenue gained if the train's first leg followed the Central Florida GreeneWay toll road from the airport, instead of taking the Beeline Expressway to the convention hall, located in the International Drive tourist district in Orlando.

The resort promised to place on the trains 2.2 million riders a year, people who currently are bused to their destinations by Disney. The convention center could offer less than a quarter of those ``captive riders,'' giving the GreeneWay route a projected advantage in annual revenues of $55.1 million compared to $40.6 million for the convention center stop.

The resort also promised to donate 50 acres of land for a station at the confluence of three major traffic arteries: Interstate 4, U.S. Highway 192 and the Osceola Parkway.

The state predicts the rail leg could cost as much as $2.5 billion. High-speed rail has been decried as a boondoggle by Gov. Jeb Bush and many legislators since its approval by the voters.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

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