Florida had its share of successes, failures and even some futuristic thinking put into practice in 2012. From the levitation train, that hovers above the tracks that are themselves elevated, to basic bike sharing programs, Florida is a model for new transportation options. Below are just some of the projects that defined the state in 2012.
Sunrail, Central Florida’s commuter train, broke ground in Altamonte Springs early in the year but is not expected to be in service until the Spring of 2014.
Sunrail is also stirring talk of a cycling renaissance in Central Florida. For example, Winter Park, built in the late 1800s, is thinking about ways to combine cycling and rail. The city is testing adding a bike share facility with 10 bicycles at its Amtrak station.
American Maglev Technology Inc., a private firm, aims to build a 40-mile long, $800 million dollar magnetic levitation rail line through Orlando, from Orlando International Airport to the Orange County Convention Center. It now has receive the go-ahead to move forward with its plan. According to the firm, it could be the first one in the U.S.
Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) presented plans for a regular train between Miami and Orlando International Airport. FECI is still working to get rights of way for the final leg of All Aboard Florida and should be in place by 2015. No public funding will be used to pay for the $1 billion required to make it a reality.
Time Magazine journalist Mike Grunwald recounts some of the Florida rail line saga in his book The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. Speaking with Mark Simpson on WMFE earlier this year, Grunwald recalled Orlando and Tampa’s hope’s creating a fast network of trains between the two major cities along the I-4 corridor:
Florida had the shovel-readiest bullet train. You had the land, you had the route right down I-4, it was pretty much good to go. You had all these private companies that were willing to pick up the slack and say we’ll cover the cost of any overruns and make sure this isn’t going to cost Florida a dime.
And after Rick Scott replaced Charlie Crist in the governor mansion, this most ambitious project of all was canned.
As with anything new, the state is taking one step forward and two steps back. The people of the state of Florida are ultimately going to decide the future of the transportation grid. The state will have to fight hard to work directly with the end-users to define and defend the best possible configuration of transportation options that will work for children, seniors, students, tourists, homeowners, renters, and not least of all, existing drivers, all while protecting the fragile ecosystem.
Tall order indeed.