Central Florida lawmakers are praising a proposal that greenlights the southbound expansion of SunRail sent to Capitol Hill late Friday.
Submitted by the Federal Transit Administration, Congress received a full funding grant agreement, authorizing $93 million for SunRail Phase II South, the stretch of the commuter rail system extending from the Sand Lake Road station to a Poinciana Boulevard station.
Under the law, Congress now has 30 days to review the agreement, potentially paving the way for a ratified document between the Department of Transportation and local partners. If approved, the agreement could be in effect by the end of September.
The Central Florida Congressional delegation released a joint statement applauding the latest development in the process.
“I am pleased that after working so hard to get this project into the President’s Budget several years ago, and then continually meeting with the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to ensure that a full funding agreement was finally agreed upon, the FTA has announced that it will provide up to $93 million for SunRail Phase II South, funding stops in Orange and Osceola County,” U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson said in a prepared statement. He represents the Orlando region for Florida’s 8th Congressional District.
“Now that we have received this document,” U.S. Rep. John Mica said, “we will act to expedite its approval, so that the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) can be signed by the end of September. I anticipate no glitches in the approval of the next major leg of our regional commuter rail system. This will greatly expand service for users.” Mica represents the state’s 7th Congressional District, which covers the north-central portion of the state, just to the north of Orlando.
“The completion of the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) between the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and SunRail is great news for travelers in Central Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, of Florida’s 5th District. “This agreement will allow Phase II South to move forward, providing more Central Floridians with a new transportation option while easing congestion on area roadways. I will continue to work with all the local, state and federal stakeholders to secure funding for Phase II North.”
The Phase II North portion of SunRail mentioned by Brown is the next hurdle facing leaders. The Volusia County track that would stretch the northern route into Deland had a problem securing funding, and low ridership projections could make it ineligible for grants.
SunRail Phase II expansion could create as many as 67,000 jobs, coming just as the massive Ultimate I-4 construction hits its stride. The 6-year, $2.3 billion project on Central Florida’s main transportation artery has residents exploring alternatives such as SunRail as a means to avoiding the daily traffic jam driving through downtown and into the tourism district.